Russia’s Relations with the DPRK in the 21st Century: Results of the First 20 Years

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February 2020 marked 20 years since a new Treaty on Friendship, Good-neighborliness and Cooperation was signed between the Russian Federation and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The document constitutes a basis of modern bilateral relations, free of ideology and based on the principles of pragmatism and mutual benefit. The article explores main directions and results in bilateral ties in 2000-2019 in order to identify the priorities of Russia and the results that Moscow managed to achieve for each of them. The presented hierarchy of Russia’s key interests in relation to the DPRK makes it possible to assess the current level of bilateral interaction and outline the logic of its development and prospects. It was revealed that Russia’s top priority is stability on its borders. Neither a military conflict, nor a humanitarian catastrophe, nor “a larger Republic of Korea” is beneficial to Moscow. Therefore, the Russian Federation seeks to maintain the status quo, contributing (without prejudice to itself) to the economic development of North Korea. With regard to the nuclear settlement, Moscow is not concerned with Pyongyang’s nuclear missile potential per se, but with its possible consequences for regional security. There is a clear understanding that North Korean nukes are not directed against Russia. The second-level priority is Moscow’s observance of its international obligations, the refusal of which may negatively affect the country’s positions in the international arena and other regions. This group of priorities includes Russia’s participation in the nuclear settlement and compliance with the UN Security Council sanctions. In the third place is the protection of Russian economic interests in the region, which are few at this stage, since most economic projects have a political background. The authors conclude that Russia’s strategic goals (peace and security in the Northeast Asia) have not been achieved yet, while the main tactical ones (i.e. border stability) have been mostly attained, although with some damage to less significant priorities (such as economic interests in the region).

About the authors

Konstantin Valerianovich Asmolov

Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Author for correspondence.

PhD in History, Leading Researcher, Center for Korean Studies

Moscow, Russian Federation

Liudmila Vladimirovna Zakharova

Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences


PhD in Economics, Senior Researcher, Center for Korean Studies

Moscow, Russian Federation


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Copyright (c) 2020 Asmolov K.V., Zakharova L.V.

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