North Korea’s Allies
North Korea is one of the most isolated countries in the world. It has few allies, with its closest being China, Russia and Iran. North Korea’s ties to the three countries have been described as a “three-legged stool”, with the three countries providing diplomatic, economic and military support. North Korea’s relationship with the three countries is complex and ever-changing, and has been the subject of much debate among political scientists and international relations experts.
China is North Korea’s main ally, providing diplomatic support as well as economic and military aid. China has been a staunch supporter of North Korea in the international arena, vetoing UN Security Council resolutions criticizing North Korea on numerous occasions. China is also the largest trading partner with North Korea, accounting for about 70 percent of the regime’s overall trade relations, according to the South China Morning Post. This economic relationship is complicated, as Beijing often uses its economic power as a tool to pressure Pyongyang to adhere to sanctions.
Despite its strong ties to North Korea, China has also imposed economic sanctions on the regime, including cutting back on oil exports and preventing North Korean laborers from working in China. However, China’s primary aim is not to topple the regime, but rather to keep it stable and protect its own interests.
Russia has been a reliable ally to North Korea since the Cold War, when the two countries fought together in the Korean War. Since then, Russia has provided economic, diplomatic and even military support to North Korea. Russia is North Korea’s second-largest trading partner after China, and according to the BBC, it supplies a significant amount of oil, food, and medical equipment to the regime.
Despite its strong ties to North Korea, Russia has also been critical of the regime’s nuclear ambitions and has supported the UN Security Council’s tough sanctions on North Korea.
Iran is one of North Korea’s closest allies and the two countries have maintained close ties since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Iran is one of the only countries in the world to provide financial support to the North Korean regime and is a major buyer of North Korean weapons. In recent years, the two countries have sought to expand their economic ties, including strengthening ties in the energy sector.
However, Iran’s relationship with North Korea has been tense at times, particularly after the revelation in 2010 that North Korean scientists had assisted Iran’s nuclear weapons program. In recent years, Iran has also been increasingly critical of North Korea’s human rights abuses.
Syria is another of North Korea’s allies, providing political and economic support. North Korean doctors and engineers are reportedly working in the country, and in recent years there have been reports of North Korea supplying weapons to Syria in violation of UN sanctions. The relationship between the two countries has also been complicated by North Korea’s close ties to its main ally, Iran, which is a major supporter of the Syrian government.
Cuba is another close ally of North Korea and the two countries have strong diplomatic ties. North Korea took part in the Cuban Revolution in 1959, providing military support to the country. In recent years, the relationship between the two countries has strengthened, with North Korea providing economic support and trade to the country. According to Vox, North Korea also provides medical personnel and other forms of assistance to Cuba.
Uganda is one of North Korea’s lesser-known allies. The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1995 and since then Uganda has provided military and economic assistance to North Korea. According to reports, North Korean officials have visited Uganda regularly, and the two countries have signed an agreement to share medical technology and military training.
Vietnam is another of North Korea’s allies and the two countries have had strong diplomatic ties since the 1950s. During the Vietnam War, North Korea reportedly sent troops to support its ally. In recent years, Vietnam and North Korea have sought to strengthen their economic relationship, with Vietnam providing economic assistance to North Korea and vice versa.