Blinken says has real concern over Russia-North Korea military ties

By Soo-hyang Choi and Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday he shared South Korean concerns about growing military cooperation between North Korea and Russia, which he called a “two-way street” involving arms flows and technical support.

Blinken and South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin also said they discussed a so-called extended deterrence strategy in countering threats from North Korea, meaning the use of U.S. military assets including its nuclear forces for protection from attacks, and improving cooperation with Japan.

“In terms of the support that Russia may be providing to the DPRK, this is something that we’re watching very, very closely,” Blinken told a press conference in the South Korean capital, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“We have real concerns about any support for North Korea’s ballistic missile programs, for its nuclear technology, for its space launch capacity,” he said. “We’re working to … identify, to expose and as necessary to counter these efforts.”

The United States and allies South Korea and Japan have condemned what they say is the flow of arms and military equipment from North Korea to Russia, saying movements of cargo from the reclusive state to Russia was evidence.

North Korea and Russia have denied any arms deals though their leaders pledged closer military cooperation when they met in September in Russia’s far east.

Blinken called the relationship a “two-way street”. North Korea was supplying military equipment to Russia for use in its war with Ukraine while Russia was in turn providing technical support to help the North make military progress, he said.

“That’s a real concern for the security of the Korean Peninsula, a real concern for global non-proliferation regimes, it’s a real concern for the Russian aggression of Ukraine and a real concern for the violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions,” he said.

Blinken arrived in South Korea on Wednesday from Japan.

He said the United States and its two east Asian allies were increasing cooperation on North Korea, which has been developing its nuclear weapons and missiles in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

“Already our three countries are taking steps to improve our joint response through real-time sharing of DPRK missile warning data, trilateral defence exercises and efforts to counter DPRK’s malicious cyber activities,” Blinken said.

Park said China had a constructive role to play over the tensions that the ties between North Korea and Russia were creating, describing them as not in Beijing’s interest.


In Japan on Wednesday, Blinken and other G7 foreign ministers condemned North Korea’s transfer of arms to Russia which they said was a direct violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The G7 ministers also called for pauses in the fighting between Israel and Hamas to allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians in Gaza after a month of bombardment and increasing ground operations by Israel’s military.

Park said he joined Blinken and the G7 ministers in urging humanitarian pauses in the fighting and was keenly monitoring reports of North Korea’s involvement in helping Hamas.

“We are keeping a close eye on any North Korean link to weapons that Hamas is using, or Hamas’ doctrine or strategies, all of those activities,” Park said. “If any link is confirmed, I think North Korea should be condemned accordingly.”

North Korea has denied reports by some military experts that its weapons were being used by Hamas, saying the accusation was a U.S. ploy to divert attention away from its responsibility.

As he arrived for talks with Park, Blinken was met with a group of South Korean protesters calling for Israel to declare a ceasefire and for South Korea not to join what one participant called “the U.S.-Israel policy”.

Blinken’s two-day visit to South Korea is the first by a U.S. secretary of state in two-and-a-half years and part of a broader Asia trip that will include a stop in India. He came to Asia from the Middle East.

Park said Blinken and he also discussed North Korea’s attempt to launch a spy satellite and urged it to call it off.

North Korea is believed to be preparing to make a third launch attempt after failing twice this year to put one in orbit. South Korea said last week North Korea was in the final stages of preparations for a launch after apparently getting technical help from Russia.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park, Hyunsu Yim and Soo-hyang Choi, Writing by Jack KimEditing by Ed Davies, Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel)