December 06, 2021

Putin and Pyongyang in 2012

When Vladimir Putin became the President of Russia in 1999, he inherited a North Korean foreign policy that was at possibly its most moribund state since the fall of the Soviet Union.  But his arrival heralded a change in North Korean policy, one which became more open to engaging with Pyongyang. These improved relations reflected the desire of Putin to promote a dual policy of pursuing security and economic interests, which in turn could enlarge regional influence and strengthen international status. The Korean Peninsula was seen as a launch-pad from which Russia could regain its lost status in the region and begin to unlock the economic potential of the Russian Far East.

Putin took the initiative by visiting Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong-Il in July of 2000, becoming the first ever leader from Moscow to do so since the formation of the DPRK. This was reciprocated in August 2001 when Kim travelled by train from Pyongyang to Moscow for talks with Putin. It was reported that Kim Jong-Il was particularly impressed by Putin. Given his personality traits this should not come as a surprise[1], and Kim Jong-Il readily opened up to Putin, who was willing to recognise him as an equal and greeted him with open arms. Under Putin’s stewardship, economic activity increased and Russia was invited by the DPRK and China to become part of the Six-Party Talks[2]. Through North Korea, he managed to open the door to the Far East between 2000 and 2002.