A top Russian military official has stated that Moscow plans on conducting joint military exercises with North Korea, a number of media outlets have reported.
“We are planning an expansion of the communication lines of our military central command,” Valery Gerasimov, the chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, said at a meeting attended by the heads of all of Russia’s armed forces branches, according to Newsweek. “We are entering preliminary negotiations with the armed forces of Brazil, Vietnam, Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
If negotiations are successful, the military drills will include naval and air force exercises as well as joint drills between ground troops from Russia and North Korea.
Although military exercises involving both North Korea and Russia could increase tensions along the Korean peninsula — where the US routinely conducts joint military drills with South Korea — any military relationship between Moscow and Pyongyang will likely be superficial.
“Russia is well-aware of the detrimental influence North Korea could have if Russia lets it beef up its military capacities — nuclear and rocket technologies, a possible connection with al-Qaeda, etc.,” South Korean expert Yune Hyeong-jin told NK News. “Russia doesn’t seem to be interested in modernizing North Korean weaponry, which can make the North more dangerous.”
US experts do not find possibility of any future Russian-North Korean partnership to be particularly threatening either.
“The Russian military may be reaching out to other countries as part of Moscow’s effort to show that it is not isolated, despite the very negative international reaction to Russian aggression against Ukraine,” former US ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer told Newsweek.
North Korea and Russia had previously agreed to stage their first joint military exercise in 2011. The exercise focused on search and rescue operations and humanitarian missions, as opposed to actual combat training.
Relations between the two countries have been on the upswing recently. Due to the sanctions placed on Russia over the Ukraine crisis, Moscow has sought to backstop its flagging economy by turning east towards China and North Korea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has confirmed that he will attend Russian celebrations marking the end of World War II in May. It will be Kim’s first foreign visit since coming to power in 2011.
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