This week’s visit to Russia by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un to meet President Vladimir Putin is extraordinary, given the circumstances in both nations. The purpose of the meeting was to strengthen bilateral strategic and tactical cooperation, bolstering their solidarity in their fight against the West (The US), which has bolstered concern from ASEAN nations.
It is the consequence of increasing competition between nuclear-armed nations. Geopolitically, they are all attempting to retain their friends and allies as close as possible. At this crucial moment, they must act swiftly. As in a game of ping-pong, the reactions are reciprocal. A slow return could be considered a sign of frailty.
The Biden administration has successfully increased defence cooperation with their two most important allies in East Asia, Japan and South Korea. The White House has honed its strategic brinkmanship on the Korean Peninsula by persuading these two allies to set aside their differences in order to combat North Korea, their common adversary.
Biden has persuaded both Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to normalise their typically tense relationship over the past two years, arguing that if they did not, it would be difficult to counter the threat posed by Pyongyang, which has been steadily growing more assertive, backed by its ambitious nuclear programmes.
Biden was successful in convincing both leaders to meet him in Washington, D.C. The leaders of the three nations will now meet annually to strengthen strategic cooperation.
These two Asian powers are under American pressure to provide humanitarian and nonlethal assistance to the Ukrainian war effort. South Korea has pledged to increase its military aid to Ukraine. Likewise, Russia is now doing the same thing, but its options are more limited because it has few allies.
In reality, Pyongyang is the most significant, as it has unfailingly supported Russia, and during their face-to-face meeting, the two leaders must have discussed their shared perspectives on the global situation and vowed to assist one another.
Speculation is rampant that North Korea will request a specific transfer of nuclear technology, which could accelerate the development of its nuclear capabilities.
These developments are unfavourable for ASEAN. The coalition desires to see the region, which includes the entire Indo-Pacific, removed from the superpower rivalry.
At the recent ASEAN summit in Jakarta, between the leaders of ASEAN and China-Japan-ROK, fruitful discussions on the global situation in relation to the region took place. Together with ASEAN, they agreed they could make a difference by ensuring peace and stability for the region’s benefit. This assurance reinforces the so-called ASEAN-plus-three cooperation.
ASEAN has been persistent in its efforts to convince North Korea to relinquish its nuclear programme and focus more on development. The bloc has pledged to assist the nation in all areas of development.
Since entering the ASEAN Regional Forum in 2000 and signing the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in 2008, North Korea has utilised ASEAN as a regional forum for expressing its views and position. In 2017, North Korea pleaded with ASEAN to help lift economic sanctions.
North Korea must be persuaded to participate in more ASEAN-led forums if the region is to prosper. ASEAN can serve as a mediator between warring parties to facilitate dialogue and prevent armed provocation and conflict.
If this trend of hostility persists, it will further destabilise the region, possibly leading to the launch of intercontinental missiles across the Pacific Ocean.