Moscow-Pyongyang relations under kim jong-il: High hopes and sober reality

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With Putin's arrival in the Kremlin, a new era dawned in Moscow-Pyongyang relations. After a decade of estrangement, the two neighbors finally reached rapprochement in 2000. Political relations improved dramatically, but the momentum did not lead to noticeable expansion in military or economic cooperation. High hopes gave way to sober reality, and the two countries adjusted expectations and attitudes to one another. This article is intended to explicate the sudden rise of Moscow-Pyongyang relations shortly after Putin's inauguration and the rapid stagnation of the ties in subsequent years. Putin hoped to regain lost influence on Korean affairs by re-establishing ties with Pyongyang. He also wanted to use joint economic projects to develop the Russian Far East and in doing so, assert Russia's position as a major power in Northeast Asia. He was not, however, willing to "pay the price." Kim Jong-il harbored unrealistic expectations of Russia as well. He was hopeful that Putin, as in the Soviet era, would readily grant his requests for military items, energy provision, and economic assistance, and provide them gratis. Repeated requests fell on deaf ears, and every time the same response was heard: "cash only!" Moscow and Pyongyang soon lowered their expectations toward each other. While trying to stay on Pyongyang's good side, Moscow seeks to project its image as an objective mediator and to promote multinational economic projects. Pyongyang, on the other hand, looks to Russia mostly as a counterbalance against the USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-130
Number of pages24
JournalPacific Focus
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • Economic relations
  • Kim Jong-il
  • Military relations
  • Putin
  • Rapprochement
  • Russia-North Korea
  • Six-Party talks


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