Russia pitched joint naval exercise with China and North Korea, Seoul lawmaker says
Stars and Stripes September 5, 2023
SEOUL, South Korea — Russia’s defense minister has proposed to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a first-ever, three-nation naval exercise that includes China, according to a South Korean lawmaker.
Rep. Yoo Sangbum, a spokesman for the ruling People Power Party, told reporters Monday that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu put the idea to Kim in July. Sangbum spoke to the media in Seoul after a closed-door intelligence briefing for South Korean lawmakers by National Intelligence Service director Kim Kyou-hyun.
Shoigu met Kim in Pyongyang during a commemoration for the 70th anniversary of the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, according to Yoo. A Chinese delegation was also present for the event, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported on July 29.
Russia’s ambassador to North Korea, Alexander Matsegora, said he was not aware of plans for trilateral training, but the idea seemed appropriate, according to an interview published Saturday by Tass, Russia’s state-run news service.
The U.S. and South Korea on Thursday wrapped up Ulchi Freedom Shield, a semiannual, large-scale joint exercise that consisted of more than 30 separate military drills throughout South Korea. The 11-day exercise included U.N. Command nations Australia, Canada, France, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, the Philippines and Thailand.
North Korea frequently condemns the exercise as a rehearsal for an invasion.
Chinese and Russian forces have conducted joint military drills as recently as July, when the two countries held Northern/Interaction-2023, a four-day maritime and airpower exercise in the Sea of Japan, or East Sea.
Around 10 warships and 30 aircraft took part in the training, “safeguarding the security of strategic maritime routes” and “implementing the two militaries' sea-air integrated joint capabilities,” Chinese Rear Adm. Qiu Wensheng said in a July 24 report by the state-run Global Times.
Talk of a three-party military exercise follows a Monday report that Kim plans to visit Russia later this month. He would meet President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, about 425 miles north of Pyongyang, to discuss an arms trade, according to the New York Times. The newspaper cited unnamed officials from the U.S. and allied nations.
Putin seeks North Korean artillery shells and antitank missiles for its nearly 19-month-long war in Ukraine, while the North wants Russia’s technology for nuclear-powered submarines and satellites, the officials said in the report.
Kim and Putin held their first summit in Vladivostok on April 25, 2019.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby warned last week that arms negotiations between Pyongyang and Moscow were “actively advancing” and that its leaders had exchanged letters “pledging to increase their bilateral cooperation.”
“Any arms deal between [North Korea] and Russia will directly violate a number of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Kirby told news reporters Wednesday in Washington, D.C. “We are continuing to monitor this situation closely and we urge [North Korea] to cease its arms negotiations with Russia."