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North Korea Strengthens Strategic Alliance with Russia amidst Ukrainian Conflict

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Written by Raphael Degraeve

Edited by Michele Puggia and Miguel Reyes Castro

On 12 June 2023, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in a message addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, pledged to step up strategic cooperation with the Russian Federation in a joint effort to strengthen the sovereignty of both nations (Ministry of Foreign Affairs [MoFA], 2023). In his message, on the occasion of Russia’s National Day, Kim defended the Kremlin’s decision to invade Ukraine and expressed his unwavering support and solidarity to the people of Russia (MoFA, 2023). In fact, since the start of the war in Ukraine, North Korea has intensified efforts to strengthen ties with the Kremlin and has consistently supported Moscow. Kim also attributed the US help to Ukraine to what he sees as the “hegemonic agenda” of the United States and the West, further aligning North Korea’s and Russia’s views on global power continuity (Reuters, 2023).

The North Korea-Russia alliance represents a significant and substantial partnership based on their mutual opposition to US influence (Cha, 2022). Both countries are actively strengthening their alliance, with their respective leaders, Kim and Putin, working together towards the shared objective of challenging the international dominant position held by the US and its allies (Cha, 2022). Thus, by engaging in this cooperative endeavour, North Korea and Russia seek to assert their sovereignty and counter what they perceive as unwarranted influence and actions by the US (Cha, 2022). And even though the US initially hesitated to provide significant military assets to Ukraine, fearing entanglement in an open proxy war with Russia (Yilek, 2023), Washington and its European allies later intensified their support for Kyiv, further leaving Putin’s war goals unfulfilled (Garamone, 2023), which can explain the Russian-North Korean alliance.

Nonetheless, North Korea’s support for Russia in the Ukraine conflict was evident since the early stages of the conflict, as highlighted by the public statements of Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of Kim Jong Un. On 27 January, she already denounced the US’ decision to send M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine, expressed concern over the escalating war situation and strongly criticized Washington’s actions (Shin, 2023). More specifically, Kim Yo Jong labelled the US as an “arch-criminal,” that poses a serious threat to Russia’s strategic security, and accusing it of deliberately expanding the war to destroy Russia (MoFA, 2023).

On its side, Washington claims that Pyongyang is supplying ammunition to the Russian military, suggesting possible strategic and economic cooperation between the two countries (Associated Press, 2023). These accusations were denied by the North Korean government despite US evidence, with Kwon Jong Gun, Director General of the North’s Foreign Ministry American Affairs Department (Shin, 2023). Kwon called them “baseless rumors” and stated that the US was trying to tarnish North Korea’s image and justify its support for Ukraine (Shin, 2023).


Reuters. (2023, June 12). North Korea’s Kim vows to “hold hands” with Putin for strategic cooperation. Reuters.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Greetings to Russian President. (2023, June 15). KCNA Watch.

McCurry, J. (2023, June 12). Kim Jong-un ‘holds hands’ with Vladimir Putin as Russia-North Korea ties deepen. The Guardian.

Shin, M. (2023, January 30). Why Is North Korea Supporting Russia on Ukraine? The Diplomat.

Associated Press (2023, March 31). Russia seeking weapons from North Korea to bolster Ukraine war, says US. The Guardian.

Cha, V. (2022, November 7). North Korea Sends Ammunitions to Russia. Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Yilek, C. (2023, May 21). Robert Gates criticizes White House for being “slow” to approve weapons to Ukraine. CBS News.

Garamone. J. (2023, March 3). U.S. Sends Ukraine $400 Million in Military Equipment. U.S. Department of Defence.