As North Korean Conflict Threat Rises, US and Russia Could See Opportunity for Cooperation


The North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile issue could become a point for Russian-US cooperation, as the danger of conflict continues to rise. While the rhetoric in the United States suggested elevating the conflict to the point of putting nuclear weapons in South Korea, the steps taken were meant to put pressure on China to act on its neighbor’s refusal to give up its nuclear and missile programs, writes Richard Weitz, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at Hudson Institute.

The possibility of military hostilities in Korea is still low, but it is rising. The United States currently lacks good military options while Pyongyang gains by delay, giving it time to develop its nuclear and missile capabilities. Soon, Washington may feel forced to act rather than accept a mutual deterrence relationship with such a problematic regime.

A few weeks ago, the US media leaked stories that the Trump administration was considering putting nuclear weapons in South Korea, assassinating Kim Jong-un, and so on. This appears to have been a means of putting pressure on visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping, to, in turn, put more pressure on North Korea to curb its missile and nuclear programs.

Sino-American cooperation on Korea continues, but China’s position is ambiguous. Beijing wants to get along with Trump and to avert a nuclear-armed neighbor, but worries what would happen if there were to be regime change in Pyongyang.

South Koreans are striving to avoid a confrontation as they choose their new leader, who will need to craft a new Korean policy soon after taking office.

President Putin has always been interested in Korean affairs and has been cleverly trying to induce Kim Jong-un to come to Moscow and otherwise break out of his isolation.

Although Russian and American diplomats have always cooperated on Korea, there are unrealized opportunities for Russian-US cooperation here, which, hopefully, the Trump administration will pursue. Further Russian-US dialogue through official and unofficial channels (such as Valdai) would identify other ways through which the two could work with China and additional partners to resolve the Korean nuclear issue before there is a war.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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