Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement that pledges mutual aid if either country faces "aggression," a strategic pact that comes as both face escalating standoffs with the West. Details of the deal were not immediately clear, but it could mark the strongest connection between Moscow and Pyongyang since the end of the Cold War. Both leaders described it as a major upgrade of their relations, covering security, trade, investment, cultural and humanitarian ties.

The summit came as Putin visited North Korea for the first time in 24 years and the U.S. and its allies expressed concerns over a possible arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with munitions for its war in Ukraine, in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers. From North Korea, Putin travelled to Vietnam, where he is scheduled to meet with Vietnam's most powerful politician, Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and new President To Lam.

Oil prices hit seven-week highs on Wednesday (June 19) as summer demand optimism and concerns over escalating conflicts offset an industry report that said US crude inventories unexpectedly rose. Brent crude futures for August, due to expire on Thursday, were up 20 cents to $85.53 a barrel, while the more active September contract gained 21 cents to $84.74. US West Texas Intermediate crude was up 3 cents to $81.60 per barrel. "The current snapshot presents an underwhelming picture but there are green shoots that indicate a more optimistic outlook," said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM.

The Brent price being $8 over the lows hit in early June "shows genuine optimism that the global oil balance will eventually tighten," Varga added. Both benchmarks, having recovered strongly in the last two weeks, gained more than $1 in the previous session to seven-week peaks after a Ukrainian drone strike led to an oil terminal fire at a major Russian port.

Japan and New Zealand agreed in principle on an intelligence sharing pact as their leaders shared concerns over the increasingly challenging security environment in the region, including closer ties between Russia and North Korea. In a joint statement, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his New Zealand counterpart Christopher Luxon expressed concern about rising tension in the South China Sea, where China has become increasingly assertive in pressing its territorial claims.

Kishida and Luxon "welcomed the agreement in principle of an information security agreement" to facilitate classified information sharing, according to the statement released by Japan's Foreign Ministry. The two leaders also agreed to accelerate talks toward signing a pact that would allow the two countries' forces to share logistical support and supplies during bilateral training and other operations. Kishida and Luxon condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the increasing military cooperation between North Korea and Russia, including the North's shipment to Russia of ballistic missiles used against Ukraine, the joint statement said.

Romania's president withdrew from the race to become NATO's next secretary general, leaving outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte all but certain to head the world's biggest military organisation from October. The office of President Klaus Iohannis said in a statement that Romania's security council has backed Rutte's bid. It also said that Iohannis had informed NATO late last week that he intended to pull out.

His withdrawal removes the last real hurdle Rutte might face. It should allow NATO to put on a show of unity and demonstrate solidarity with war-ravaged Ukraine when U.S. President Joe Biden and his counterparts meet in Washington on July 9-11 to mark NATO's 75th birthday. Rutte's appointment could be sealed by a meeting of NATO ambassadors in coming days, or by the leaders when they meet in Washington. He would officially start work on Oct. 1.

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts