Seoul summons Russian ambassador after Kim-Putin summit

This picture taken on September 13, 2023 and released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 14 shows North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (front R) exchanging farewell greetings with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (front L) at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Amur region. (Photo by KCNA VIA KNS / AFP) /

SEOUL, Sept 19, 2023 (AFP) – South Korea summoned the Russian ambassador Tuesday, the foreign ministry said, to warn Moscow over military cooperation with North Korea after Kim Jong Un met President Vladimir Putin in Russia.

Kim spent nearly a week touring Russia’s far east before returning home Monday, visiting a space centre and weapons factories, on a trip which has fanned Western fears that isolated, nuclear-armed Pyongyang could provide Moscow with weapons for its war in Ukraine.

Kim and Putin held a summit, with the Russian leader talking up defence cooperation with North Korea, hinting of “possibilities” for bolstering military ties — something which would violate a raft of separate sanctions on both countries.

The Kremlin subsequently said no agreement has or would be signed.

Experts have warned the internationally-isolated pair might have been looking to do a deal involving Pyongyang supplying artillery shells and anti-tank missiles in exchange for satellite technology from Moscow.

Seoul summoned Andrey Borisovich Kulik, the Russian ambassador to South Korea, and urged Moscow to “immediately stop its moves for military cooperation with North Korea and comply with Security Council resolutions,” its foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Our government will cooperate with the international community to make sure that any act that violates Security Council resolutions and seriously threatens our security comes at a clear cost,” Seoul told the Russian ambassador, the statement said.

“Such an act will have a very negative impact on Korea-Russia relations,” it added.

Relations between the North and South are at one of their lowest points in decades, with diplomacy stalled and North Korean leader Kim calling for increased weapons development, including tactical nuclear weapons.

Experts say any deal between Moscow and Pyongyang could force the South to review its careful balancing act on the Ukraine war — which Seoul has condemned, even as it resists calls to supply weapons directly to Kyiv.

South Korea is a major weapons exporter but longstanding domestic policy prevents it from selling weapons into active conflicts.