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Region of Concern: Russia; China; North Korea

Written By Naomi Whipps; Edited by Elena Alice Rossetti and Cameron Munoz

Date: September 4, 2023

Map of Asia[1]

Event: On Monday, September 4, a South Korean lawmaker reported that Russia has likely proposed North Korea participate in trilateral naval drills along with China. A few days earlier, Russia’s ambassador to North Korea stated joint military exercises between the three countries “seemed appropriate.”[2] A White House report disclosed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin exchanged letters denoting Russia’s interest in acquiring North Korean munitions for the war against Ukraine.[3] The proposal follows multiple joint drills between the United States, South Korea, and Japan in the Indo-Pacific region. North Korea has responded to these drills with increased weapons testing, directly violating multiple UN Security Council sanctions.[4] China and Russia are blocking a unified UN response by vetoing sanctions against North Korea.[5]

Significance: Russia likely increased communication with North Korea to negotiate an arms deal for its ongoing military campaign in Ukraine. Talks of military drills between China, North Korea, and Russia very likely come as a response to the military exercises between Japan, the United States, and South Korea in the Indo-Pacific. North Korea is likely interested in building an alliance to bolster its military image to the rest of the world, especially the United States. Defense cooperation and diplomacy talks between the United States, South Korea, and Japan will likely increase in response to the threat of a military alliance between China, Russia, and North Korea. Russia and China will almost certainly veto any UN action against North Korea’s illicit weapons testing. Economic cooperation between Russia, China, and North Korea will likely expand following Western sanctions against Russia and North Korea. China's criticism of the United States’ involvement in the war in Ukraine and the conflict from ongoing missile tests and military drills in the Indo-Pacific very likely signifies its sympathy and willingness to form a military alliance with Russia and North Korea.

Recommendations: CTG recommends the United States, South Korea, and Japan work closely together to monitor the deepening alliance between North Korea, Russia, and China. Participation in trilateral military drills between the United States, South Korea, and Japan should increase as the threat posed by an alliance between North Korea, Russia, and China looms. The United States should emphasize nuclear arms negotiations and global disarmament. The United States should continue to partner with other UN Security Council members to address the North Korean nuclear threat and pressure China and Russia to cooperate. Sanctions on North Korea and Russia should remain in place.


[1]Map of Asia” by Cacahuate licensed under (CC BY-SA 4.0)

[2]Seoul’s spy agency says Russia has likely proposed North Korea to join three-way drills with China, AP, September 2023,

[3]White House says Putin and Kim Jong Un traded letters as Russia looks for munitions from North Korea, AP, August 2023,

[4]S.Korea, US, Japan hold drills as N.Korea slams US 'nuclear blackmail', Reuters, April 2023,

[5]China and Russia veto new UN sanctions on North Korea, AP, May 2023,



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