Japanese, South Korean leaders agree North Korea-Russia ties pose serious threat

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Wednesday that North Korea’s deepening ties with Russia pose a serious threat and that the security challenges facing Asia and Europe are becoming increasingly indivisible.

The meeting in Washington confirmed that Japan and South Korea will strengthen cooperation with the United States, as well as with NATO and partners in the Indo-Pacific region, given the increasing complexity of regional issues and their broader implications, Japanese officials said.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (R) and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (L) meet in Washington, D.C., July 10, 2024. (Yonhap/Kyodo)

“In light of the current international situation, it is extremely important for the leaders of Japan and South Korea to have a solid relationship based on trust and appreciation of strategic issues, and to hold discussions and cooperate closely with each other,” Kishida told Yoon.

Yoon said North Korea’s strengthening military and economic cooperation with Russia after they signed a comprehensive partnership treaty last month was causing “serious concerns for global security, not to mention East Asia.”

The agreement, which includes a provision on mutual assistance in the event of an attack on the other side, was reached as Russian President Vladimir Putin visited North Korea for the first time in 24 years.

Relations between Moscow and Pyongyang have deepened significantly since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Western officials say North Korea has supplied Russia with missiles and other weapons for its war with Ukraine.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (R) and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol shake hands in Washington, July 10, 2024. (Yonhap/Kyodo)

Kishida and Yoon, who last met in Seoul in May, also agreed to maintain close contacts ahead of the 60th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries next year, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

Kishida and Yoon’s conversation, which lasted about 35 minutes, took place on the eve of their third consecutive meeting with NATO leaders.

Along with Australia and New Zealand, both countries were invited to the annual NATO summit as the alliance’s four partner countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

The 32-member NATO, the world’s largest military alliance, and the four nations have stepped up dialogue and cooperation, both bilaterally and collectively, in the face of security challenges such as those from China and Russia.

On Wednesday, Kishida also held talks with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, whose country joined NATO in March as the newest member of the transatlantic alliance.

According to the ministry, Kishida and Kristersson discussed how to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and North Korea. They also agreed to strengthen cooperation not only in security matters but also in economic, technological and academic matters.

While in the U.S. capital until Thursday, before leaving for Germany, Kishida is scheduled to meet with new British Prime Minister Keir Starmer and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who will end his term in October after 10 years in the role, officials said.

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