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The Korean Peninsula Crisis and the Role of Russia

The situation in the Korean Peninsula is more and more intensified and becomes very critical. Of course, North Korea and the United States are the main parts of the crisis, and South Korea plays a special role in it. As for China, it also plays an important role in the Korean Peninsula crisis. However, there is no doubt that Russia is also an important player, too.

Russia is a neighbour of the Korean Peninsula. The situation there will have a significant impact on Russia’s national interests. Therefore, Russia pays much attention to the situation in the Korean Peninsula and actively puts forward a package solution to the peninsula issues including the nuclear issue in order to achieve lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia. Russia is seriously concerned about the successive launches of ballistic missiles by North Korea and its nuclear test. It believes that the move seriously violates the relevant Security Council resolutions and is unacceptable. Russia strongly urges North Korea to strictly comply with the relevant requirements of the UN Security Council resolution.

At the same time, Russia is seriously concerned about the situation in and around the Korean Peninsula. It warns that the intension of political and military tensions in the region may trigger armed conflicts. Russia also calls for the international community to take collective measures to resolve the issues peacefully through dialogue and consultation. Russia opposes any words and deeds that lead to tension and aggravate conflicts and says that the relevant countries ought to keep restraint, avoid provocative actions and militant statements, demonstrate the will of unconditional dialogue and work together to ease tensions.

Russia supports China’s proposal of “double suspension” of the DPRK’s nuclear activities and of the large-scale joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea, and supports China’s “twin-track” basic idea of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and the establishment of a peace mechanism there. Russia has also clearly put forward the idea that is carried out step by step to solve the issue of the Korean Peninsula and has enjoyed active support from China.

On the one hand, Russia hopes that North Korea will make a voluntary political decision to announce the suspension of the nuclear and ballistic missiles tests. On the other hand, Russia hopes that the United States and South Korea will suspend large-scale joint military exercises accordingly. In Russia’s view, only if all parties involved open negotiations simultaneously and determine the overall principle of mutual relations, including the non-use of force, non-aggression and peaceful coexistence, can the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free peninsula be achieved and all the issues including the nuclear issue be resolved in a package.

Russia attaches great importance to safeguarding the international non-proliferation regime and upholding the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. Russia particularly emphasizes that North Korea’s security should also be taken into consideration and North Korea’s reasonable concerns should be respected. Other countries should make corresponding efforts for the resumption of talks so as to jointly create an atmosphere of peace and mutual trust. At the Valdai meeting in October this year, President Putin emphasized in particular that we ought to resolve the issue of the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and respect the interests of North Korea. It shows that Russia disagrees with the escalating military exercises directed at North Korea from America and calls for a resumption of the process of dialogue for a comprehensive settlement of the peninsula issue as soon as possible. Military means should not be an option for resolving the Korean Peninsula issue. US President Trump warned North Korea that the United States is ready to resort to the war. However, Russian President Putin emphasized that the United States can’t use any force against DPRK and insisted that we can make a peaceful solution to the issue. Russia supported dialogue and consultation between North and South Koreans on both sides, released goodwill to each other, improved relations and promotes reconciliation and cooperation so as to ease the situation in the Korean Peninsula.

Russia reiterates that we should attach great importance to maintaining international and regional balance and stability and emphasize that alliances among the countries concerned should not undermine the interests of the third party. We should strengthen military deployment and existence in Northeast Asia so as to oppose the extraterritorial forces in response to North Korea’s nuclear program as an excuse. As for the issue of the THAAD system, Russia makes it clear that this move will seriously damage the strategic security interests of the countries in the region, including China and Russia, and will not contribute to achieve the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and the peace and stability in the region.

With the increasingly strong sentiment toward North Korea and the United States and the unprecedented downturn in the relations between China and North Korea, the role and status of Russia have been highlighted. On November 27, 2017, Russia proposed a “road map” of the peninsula to resolve the DPRK nuclear issue. The core of the issue is that the DPRK suspends nuclear tests, and the United States and South Korea suspend or reduce large-scale military exercises and solve the security problems in the Korean Peninsula in three steps. The mainstream judgment of Russia is that the situation in the Korean Peninsula is developing in the direction of great destruction. Russian “road map” is summed up in three steps: firstly, we should reduce the military tension, that is, to implement the “double suspension”; secondly, North Korea will hold direct talks with the United States; thirdly, multilateral negotiations will be held to establish a peace and security mechanism in Northeast Asia. Russia also clearly supports the resumption of the Six-nation talks at anytime and anywhere.

Not only has Russia developed a “road map”, but also it has made great efforts to implement it. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Morgulov, who is responsible for the security of East and South Asia, has visited South Korea. At the same time, a Russian parliamentary delegation visited North Korea. This is the first time that the members of Russian parliament have made such a visit to the DPRK in 25 years. During the visit, members of Russian parliament planned to discuss the solutions to the peaceful realization of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the suspension of the militarization of the area. North Korea invited Russian Duma members to visit the DPRK with the intention of seeking a way to break the current dilemma. North Korea is now subjected to sanctions, and is unprecedentedly isolated. Russia is a big power. So improving relations with Russia can help North Korea to get out of its predicament to a certain extent and is conducive to the domestic promotion. The United States once again ranks North Korea as a “terrorist country” and exerts great pressure on it. So North Korea hopes to get the help of Russia. Russia is alarmed at the United States’ expansive military influence in East Asia on the basis of the situation on the peninsula and therefore repeatedly emphasizes dialogue to contain the United States.

In short, as an important country in Northeast Asia, Russia should give full play to its unique role in resolving the crisis in the Korean Peninsula and make its contributions to easing the high level of tensions in the Korean Peninsula. China and Russia should actively cooperate on the issue of the Korean Peninsula because China and Russia share not only the national strategic interests on the issue of the Korean Peninsula but also the challenges and pressures they face. That is the reason why China and Russia have adopted an almost identical stance on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear crisis. On July 4, 2017, the Chinese and Russian Foreign Ministries issued a joint statement on the issue of the Korean Peninsula, which shows that China and Russia share the same viewpoints on the situation there.

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