Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu visited North Korea in an important and symbolic move by Moscow this week. The Defense Minister met North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang. Russia is checking out North Korea’s missiles and drones. Russia has already acquired Iranian drones to be used against Ukraine.
Russia’s goal is to keep waging the Ukraine war on the cheap, and that may mean acquiring weapons from places like North Korea. This could boost the dictatorship there and make it even more dangerous. North Korea often fires missiles out to sea threatening Japan and South Korea.
According to Russian state media Tass, “the meeting will serve to further deepen ties between Russia and North Korea….the Russian Defense Minister handed a personal message from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Kim Jong-un. It is noted that the North Korean leader expressed gratitude for the message. Also, according to the agency, Shoigu and Kim Jong-un exchanged gifts.” The men discussed national, regional and other issues.
The BBC noted that “Jong Un showed off North Korea's latest weapons to Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday.” Ostensibly the Russians were attending Pyongyang's celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice.
Moscow got a close look at the Hwasong intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). According to the BBC report this missile was first tested in April and is “believed to be the country's first ICBM to use solid propellants, which makes it quicker to launch than liquid-fuel ones.”
Russians looked at North Korean drones too
The Russians also looked at North Korean drones, which are knock-offs or copies of US Global Hawks and Reaper drones. It’s not clear how advanced the North Korean drone program is.
Pyongyang is allegedly supplying Russia with arms already, including munitions and other weapons. This is believed to consist of either 153mm shells or 122mm shells for howitzers. CNN noted last November that “North Korea would likely be able to provide Russia with 122- or 152-millimeter artillery shells and either tube artillery or multiple-rocket-launcher artillery that would be compatible with Russia’s systems, said Bruce Klingner, a former Korea analyst at the CIA who is now at the Heritage Foundation.”
What matters now is whether Russia increases trade with North Korea and how that may impact Russia-Iran ties. North Korea and Iran have also collaborated in the past on technology, including missiles. Together, Iran, Russia and North Korea could continue to support each other as a kind of alliance of authoritarian dictator regimes. This could fuel Russia’s war in Ukraine. If technology is shared with Iran it could also threaten the Middle East.