Trilateral relations among Japan, the Republic of Korea (the ROK), and the United States have been strengthening, as was evidenced by this summer’s trilateral summit at Camp David.
One area where the three nations share a long-time understanding and are fully aligned is the threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the DPRK, particularly, its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
But another threat has emerged in recent months: the DPRK’s provision of arms to Russia that are used in Putin’s brutal and all-out invasion of Ukraine.
On October 25, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Japanese Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko, and ROK Foreign Minister Park Jin issued a joint statement in which they “strongly condemn the provision of military equipment and munitions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to the Russian Federation for use against the government and people of Ukraine. Such weapons deliveries, several of which we now confirm have been completed, will significantly increase the human toll of Russia’s war of aggression.”
The ministers noted that in return for supporting Russia, the DPRK “is seeking military assistance to advance its own military objectives.” They pointed out that arms transfers to or from the DPRK – as well as the transfer of dual-use technologies that could be used in the DPRK’s WMD, ballistic missile, or conventional weapons programs – violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions. “Russia itself,” they observed, “voted for the UN Security Council resolutions that contain these restrictions.”
Russia and the DPRK have made no secret of their burgeoning relationship. In September, Kim Jung Un traveled to Russia where the two leaders discussed military matters and toasted their friendship. In mid-October, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Kim in Pyongyang.
In their joint statement, the U.S., Japan, and the ROK express deep concern about the possibility of Russia’s transferring any nuclear or ballistic missile technology to the DPRK. “Such transfers,” the ministers said, “jeopardize the ongoing efforts of the international community to keep sensitive technologies out of the hands of actors who are working to destabilize regional security, threaten peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, as well as across the globe.”
“The United States, Japan, and the ROK stand together,” they declared, “resolute in our opposition to arms transfers and related military cooperation between the DPRK and Russia and the deleterious effect such actions have on global security and nonproliferation.”