Communist and post-Communist oppression North Korea | 26 June 2024

North Korea/Russia: Mutual defense pact and visit to Russian Orthodox Church in Pyongyang

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Russian President Vladimir Putin honored Kim Jong Un with a brief visit to North Korea on 18-19 June 2024, at which he received a red-carpet welcome with huge crowds of flag-waving residents and festive decorations; this was his first visit since July 2000. As confirmed by the Russian Kremlin on 19 June 2024, part of the official itinerary included a visit by President Putin to Pyongyang’s Church of the Life-Giving Trinity, which was built in 2006 and serves Russian residents and visiting delegations. However, the most significant event was the signing of a mutual defense pact (Reuters, 19 June 2024).

World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller comments: “Kim Jong Un is certainly pulling all the stops to cement Russian-Korean friendship. It is no surprise for President Putin to seek contact with the local Orthodox church; he has often presented himself as a Christian and has known how to use the patriotism of the Russian Orthodox Church leaders at home to promote support for the invasion of Ukraine. Kim Jong Un has also visited churches abroad as part of official itineraries but does not seem to have officially joined President Putin at this visit to one of the four state-run ‘show-churches’ within his own country.”

Thomas Muller continues: “North Korea has been supporting Russia’s war-effort in Ukraine, with UN monitors discovering evidence that North Korean ballistic missiles have been deployed by Russian forces (Al-Jazeera, 30 April 2024). In return for such support, President Putin has reiterated his intention to defend Pyongyang’s interests against ‘US pressure, blackmail and military threats’ (BBC News live reporting, accessed 19 June 2024), which is undoubtedly the main purpose behind the mutual defense pact. Heavily sanctioned North Korea has also received promises of Russian economic support which will hopefully seep down to the general population, including to those among the real Christian minority. However, judging by past experience, the vast majority of such aid is likely to be siphoned off by the army, and the remainder by Pyongyang residents.”  



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