The KCNA released a statement this morning (KST) showing Kim Jong Un’s full support for beleaguered Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad. At a time when much of the world is debating whether or not to now diplomatically recognize an increasingly large group of rebels opposed to his rule, the timing of the statement would almost be funny if it wasn’t so diplomatically counter-productive.
In the message, Kim Jong Un was reported to say:
“Please accept my warm congratulations to you and the government and people of your friendly country on the 42nd anniversary of the rectification movement in Syria”
While not mentioning the civil war outright, Kim did wish Assad success in his “responsible work” and reiterated “firm solidarity” with the “struggle of the Syrian people to defend the sovereignty, peace and stability of the country”.
With reports swirling about suspected arms being shipped from North Korea to the beleaguered Bashar Al Assad as recently as May (and the announcement of a new trade agreement just weeks ago), there is no doubt that Pyognyang and Damascus have or years have enjoyed very close relations. Many analysts speculate that Pyongyang helped Syria to build the nuclear reactor that was bombed by Israel in 2007, while historically there has been a long history of cooperation in the SCUD missile domain. As such, it comes as no surprise that Kim Jong Un might be hoping for another decade or two of power for the ruling Assad family.
But while North Korea denounced the “US Military Attack” on Libya just days after hostilities began, it is interesting to note that in contrast to Syria, KCNA made no mention of Gadaffi in that particular wording. Back then the DPRK’s consternation was primarily focused on Washington’s role in the conflict and in underscoring other nations opposition to hostilities. In fact, KCNA made no mention of Gaddafi during the entire conflict, last referring to him in August 2010 in a report on the anniversary of the Libyan revolution.’
Why the difference? Although Libya and North Korea also enjoyed a long history of military cooperation and Gaddafi had even personally met Kim Il Sung, their relations had drifted somewhat by the time of the conflict. By the time hostilities started it was only a matter of time before he would have been ousted, and its possible that Pyongyang was cognizant of this. With Assad on the other hand, things are a little more ambiguous.
North Korea has a history of reaching out to states who find themselves on the wrong end of the international community. Two bizarre cases of this were when they tried to package and sell Juche to Romania and Guyana in the 1970s – both countries ended up practicing for Juche-style mass games that never materialized. Often Pyongyang takes any chance it can to show solidarity for another states autonomy and will do it even if it’s not a diplomatically sensible move.
However, while North Korea’s support of rogue regimes during troubling times tends to only articulate in the diplomatic domain, on occasion there is even military support. During the Yom Kippur War, North Korea sent scores of pilots and Korean Peoples Air Force fighters to bombard Israel in a war in which it stood as having nothing to gain. And in Zimbabwe, over 100 North Korean soldiers famously trained Mugabe’s infamous Fifth Brigade, the group behind the massacre of over 20,000 civilians in the early 1980s.
Time will tell if Kim Jong Un has made the right move in endorsing Assad. In the meantime, Western leaning states will continue monitoring for weapons related cargo shipments between the two countries.
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 612 words of this article.