Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 226

Russia and North Korea are reportedly on the verge of signing a new interstate treaty to replace the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance signed by Pyongyang and the Soviet Union in 1961. In 1995 Russia declared the older treaty invalid on the grounds that it failed to reflect changed international realities. A key difference between the treaty being negotiated and the 1961 document is that the new treaty will contain no commitment by Moscow to come to North Korea’s assistance in the event of military aggression against Pyongyang.

Russian government sources have in recent days indicated that the signing of the new treaty could come as soon as early next year. Unexpected progress in drafting the treaty was reportedly achieved during some five days of consultations last week in Moscow between Russian and North Korean diplomats. The talks were to have lasted only two days. Russian sources have said that there are only a few points in the treaty text on which the two sides must still resolve differences. The scheduling of a visit to North Korea next year by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, the Russian sources added, will depend on progress in the treaty talks.

The talks in Moscow also produced a Russian-North Korean agreement on exchanges between diplomatic personnel for the years 1999-2000. The agreement calls for Foreign Ministry personnel from the two countries to meet regularly for consultations on a wide range of bilateral and international issues.

The Russian side, finally, used last week’s talks to lobby for a Russian role in talks aimed at achieving a peace settlement on the Korean peninsula. The peace talks are currently taking place under a “two-plus-two” format involving the two Koreas, the United States and China. Russia has long sought a place at the Korean negotiating table, and has on a number of occasions proposed convening an international conference to discuss security problems on the Korean peninsula. That same proposal was repeated during last week’s talks (Russian agencies, November 30-December 3; December 7).