The participation of Russian Minister of Defence Sergey Shoigu in the celebrations in Pyongyang, dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Korean people in the Patriotic Liberation War of 1950-1953, was a clear signal to Washington and Seoul about the transformation of Russian policy on the Korean Peninsula in favour of recognizing the DPRK as an important military-political partner.
Taking into account the cult of military personnel that exists in North Korea (according to expert estimates, the DPRK has the fourth largest army in the world), the coverage of the visit to Pyongyang on July 25-27, 2023 of a high-ranking Russian defence ministry delegation headed by Shoigu differed markedly from the presentation of the arrival to the celebrations of North Korea’s Chinese comrades, headed by Li Hongzhong, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (Deputy Chairman of the Parliament). Of course, Moscow’s decision to send military, rather than civilian, officials to Pyongyang (for example, Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matvienko participated in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK in 2018) is due to Pyongyang’s firm support for the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, as well as the unprecedented exacerbation of the situation on the Korean Peninsula. A clear signal for Washington and Seoul was the statement of the Russian Ministry of Defence, which emphasised that the visit of Sergey Shoigu to the DPRKwill help strengthen Russian-North Korean military ties and become an important stage in the development of cooperation between the two countries.”
Quite effective was the footage of Shoigu’s visit, together with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, to an exhibition of the latest military equipment, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (Hwasong-17 and Hwasong-18 ICBMs), which are capable of reaching any point in the United States (Photo 1), as well as their joint participation in an official parade (Photo 3).
Photo 1: Hwasong-17 and Hwasong-18 ICBMs demonstrated to Sergei Shoigu by Kim Jong-un during his visit to the Arms Exhibition 2023, July 26, 2023.
Source: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)
The expert community was particularly impressed by the premiere of a hypersonic glide vehicle (the Hwasong-12B, a type of ballistic missile warhead capable of manoeuvring at speeds exceeding Mach 5 (6,125 km/h)), as well as North Korean prototypes of American long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-9 Reaper (Photo 2).
Among the presented developments, it is also worth noting the underwater unmanned vehicles carrying the Haeil-1 nuclear warhead, which, with reservation, can be called an analogue of the Russian Poseidon underwater vehicle, but with a shorter range (Photo 3).
Photo 2: Hwasong-12B hypersonic glide vehicle (left) and analogues of the American RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs (right)
Source: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)
Photo 3: Participation of Sergei Shoigu, Kim Jong-un and Li Hongzhong in a solemn military parade (left), demonstration of nuclear submarine drones "Haeil-1" (right), July 27, 2023
Source: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)
A number of Western experts stated in this connection that the leadership of the DPRK for a long time avoided demonstrating its nuclear potential in front of high-ranking guests from Russia and China. Now, the appearance of Sergey Shoigu together with Kim Jong-un against the backdrop of “banned” ICBMs, in their opinion, indicates Moscow’s non-resistance to the development of the North Korean nuclear missile programme.
Reconstruction of the Moscow-Pyongyang-Beijing strategic triangle
The prerequisites for the resumption of strategic cooperation between Moscow, Pyongyang and Beijing were brewing against the background of the tightening of Washington's policy towards North Korea under the Biden administration, as well as NATO's military deployment in the Indo-Pacific region. So, in 2021, the AUKUS bloc (USA, Britain and Australia) was created, which involves the assistance of Washington and London in the appearance of a nuclear submarine fleet in non-nuclear Australia. According to leading Russian and Chinese experts, such an initiative undermines the goals and spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and could cause serious damage to the international non-proliferation regime. The Quadripartite Security Dialogue QUAD (Australia, India, the USA and Japan) has already been branded as an anti-Chinese NATO; Canada has proposed the creation of a four-way cooperation structure involving South Korea, Japan, and the United States to counter Russia and China. There are more and more persistent signals from Seoul and Tokyo that they are not averse to hosting American nuclear weapons or acquiring their own, which, again, would grossly violate the international non-proliferation regime. Of particular note, the Presidents of the United States and South Korea in April 2023 signed the Washington Declaration, which lists a number of steps to demonstrate the potential for deterrence. American nuclear submarines with nuclear ballistic missiles and aircraft carriers make regular visits to the Republic of Korea, and US strategic bombers make flights along North Korean territory. In addition, in September 2023, a ceremony to celebrate South Korean Armed Forces Day with the participation of the US military should take place.
In this regard, the visit to Pyongyang by high-ranking officials from Russia and China is as much moral support as it is a clear sign of the revival of the Russian-Chinese-North Korean coalition, designed to effectively counter the escalation of tension on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific region as a whole. At the same time, it is not necessary at this stage to talk about the need for Moscow to provide security guarantees to Pyongyang, as was, for example, recorded in the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the USSR and the DPRK of 1961. North Korea has a sufficient military-technical arsenal to defend its sovereignty.
USA: A course to discredit the sanctions regimes of the UN Security Council
Assessing the results of the celebrations, Western experts did not fail to note that the demonstration of “banned” ballistic missiles in the presence of high-ranking representatives of Russia and China casts doubt on the readiness of Moscow and Beijing to enforce the UN Security Council sanctions that have been in force against the DPRK since 2006. Although, as you know, the resolutions of the Security Council do not prohibit foreign dignitaries from visiting North Korean weapons exhibitions with weapons or their presence at military parades.
It should be noted that it is precisely because of the actions of the United States, which discredited international law through their non-compliance with, or violation of, the sanctions regimes of the UN Security Council.
On the eve of the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June 2018, the North Korean leader announced the suspension of his country’s testing of ICBMs and nuclear tests, while Washington, under the Trump administration, stubbornly turned a blind eye to Pyongyang’s numerous launches of other types of ballistic missiles, carried out, however, in violation of the sanctions” resolutions of the UN Security Council. Not a single US appeal to the UN Security Council regarding the adoption of a new package of sanctions against the DPRK was received in 2018-2020.
In every resolution, the UN Security Council consistently emphasises the importance of working to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and beyond. However, the increasingly large-scale US-South Korean military exercises, aimed mainly at practicing strikes against North Korean strategic targets, essentially discredit the decisions of the UN Security Council and only increase tension in Northeast Asia.
Among other examples, one can single out the obvious fact that following the hasty withdrawal of the US military contingent from Afghanistan in 2021, a colossal arsenal of American military equipment and ammunition fell into the hands of the Taliban militants , in violation of the current UN Security Council sanctions regime against the Taliban, introduced by resolution 1988 (2011). In subparagraph C of paragraph 1 of the 1988 Resolution, the UNSC decided that all States have an obligation to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms and related materiel of all kinds, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment and spare parts, to persons and entities designated as the Taliban, as well as other individuals, groups, businesses and organisations associated with the Taliban.
The opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem in 2018 was in direct conflict with Resolution 478 (1980), in which the UN Security Council called on “those states that have established diplomatic missions in Jerusalem to withdraw such missions from the Holy City.” According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “the decision taken by the United States on Jerusalem is incompatible with international law, conscience, justice, or regional realities. This decision was the biggest blow to the prestige of the UN Security Council, of which the United States is a member.”
Thus, the basic principles underlying the system of international relations have become an inconvenient obstacle for the United States and, as a result, are subject to various interpretations or simply bypassed. A sense of its own exclusivity allows Washington to place itself above the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. Thus, the Americans created the prerequisites for the revival of the coalition of Russia and China with the DPRK - a state that has been under the strict pressure of the UN Security Council sanctions for a long time.