Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a "strategic partnership treaty" on Wednesday that included a mutual defense pledge, upgrading relations to a level that Kim said was on the same level as a formal alliance.

"The comprehensive partnership agreement signed today provides, among other things, for mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties to this agreement," Putin said.

The Russian leader had signaled earlier in the day that the two nations had prepared a document that would "form the basis" of their relations for years to come, but the stunning revelation that it included what amounted to a mutual defense pact was expected to send shock waves through Asia.