(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Sept. 14)

Despite deepening international concerns, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Russia on Wednesday. The two leaders were expected to meet at a place near Vladivostok, where the Eastern Economic Forum was held, but they chose Vostochny Cosmodrome, an advanced space base 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) to the northwest of Vladivostok. Kim arrived at the space complex after traveling more than 2,700 kilometers by train.

After touring the space base, the two leaders made public their intention to consolidate their military cooperation. Putin told Kim, "This is our new space base we want to show you," expressing his intention to help with the North's satellite launch. Putin made it official. "That's why we came here," he said. " [North Koreans] are trying to develop their excellent [space] programs." How can a permanent member of the UN Security Council call the North's missile development an "excellent program"? The Kremlin went on to stress the need for more cooperation on "sensitive areas that should not be disclosed."

In response, Kim praised Russia for "engaging in a sacred battle to protect its sovereignty and security against hegemonic forces," vowing to join "the battle against imperialism." Shortly before the summit in the space complex, North Korea fired two ballistic missiles from Pyongyang to the East Sea. The missiles flew 650 kilometers — the distance between Pyongyang and Jeju Island.

Russia, in a tough war against Ukraine, desperately needs conventional weapons, including shells, from North Korea. Russia's technologies for satellites and atmospheric re-entry for ICBMs can be the final piece of the nuclear puzzle for North Korea. The perfect match of their interests is a nightmare for South Korea.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves will visit Seoul next week, armed with further sanctions against North Korea. But if Pyongyang and Moscow start a full-fledged military cooperation, the sanctions will have their limits. Our government must first persuade Russia not to cross the line through direct diplomatic channels. At the same time, we must find effective ways to block suspicious movements of nuclear subs or satellite equipment by taking strong measures, including maritime control. On finding any alarming developments based on the tripartite cooperation with Washington and Tokyo, Seoul must immediately let the rest of the world know of the developments around us. In the worse case, our government must seriously consider supplying combat weapons to Ukraine in reaction.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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