Embroiled in a confrontation with the West, Russia cannot play the role of an effective intermediary, and Moscow’s unwillingness to subsidize North Korea means that for Pyongyang, Russia is of no interest as a potential donor.
The Kremlin’s agenda on the Korean Peninsula depends on a fundamental choice that must be made in Russian foreign policy: will the Kremlin strengthen its support for China in its global confrontation with the United States, or will it try to avoid getting embroiled in the conflict, thus retaining greater strategic autonomy in Asia and the rest of the world?
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. It was initially a civil war that gradually evolved into an international conflict, during which the Soviet Union and China supported North Korea.
Despite occasional flurries of plans and activity, there is little chance of radical change in Russian-North Korean relations, and the bilateral problems are not the result of sanctions.
Despite Russia’s limited toolkit, growing alignment with China, and its broken relationship with the U.S., Moscow will not be written off by Washington and its allies when it comes to the diplomatic process on North Korea.
The Carnegie Moscow Center organized a discussion on northeast Asia security issues.
North Korea’s statements of its intention to abandon nuclear weapons should not be taken too seriously: the country considers them to be the most important guarantee of the regime’s preservation. For now, North Korean nuclear weapons play a primarily defensive role, but it cannot be ruled out that in the future the nuclear program will also be used for offensive purposes. In addition, their existence increases the risk of the proliferation of nuclear weapons in East Asia.
The summit of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore brought the Korean peninsula closer to peace, but it was more about symbolism than substance. Its most important outcome is to bring North Korea out of diplomatic isolation—something that is welcome to both China and Russia.