Moscow, Beijing hold off Us-korean bid
ON SEPTEMBER 15, North Korea fired another ballistic missile which flew 3700km over Japan and fell into the Pacific 2000km from Cape Erimo in Hokkaido. The missile had the range to attack foreign infrastructure and American bases.
The US has called for cranking up international pressure on Pyongyang and made it clear it might use force against North Korea, essentially blackmailing other countries by threatening them with a war on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea’s maniacal determination to continue its nuclear missile programme defies and scares the world. People in many countries are worried that Pyongyang has gone too far and that the unpredictable US President Donald Trump would respond disproportionately, plunging the entire region encompassing South Korea, Japan, Russia’s Far East and other East Asian countries into the chaos of a new world war.
Russia’s position on the issue has been firm and consistent over the past 10 years as North Korea built up its nuclear potential and the international community responded with harsh, but useless sanctions against it.
“These sanctions will bear no fruit but will only embitter them further,” Russian diplomats kept saying.
While North Koreans had nothing to eat, their government continued to invest millions in nuclear weapons, fearing South Korea, with US assistance, would obliterate their state. The situation was simmering.
But then Pyongyang ventured too far as impulsive Trump replaced cautious Barack Obama in the White House, and the international community became seriously concerned. Just a few days ago, several officials from Trump’s team did not rule out the use of force against North Korea.
Trump hoped to ask Moscow and Beijing to use their influence with Pyongyang, which would have no choice but to back off, but they have their own views of the situation and won’t blindly do Washington’s bidding.
Following the belligerent rhetoric of the US, China and Russia, which have repeatedly called for a negotiated settlement, held a joint naval exercise off North Korea.
The US and South Korea plan to organise their own manoeuvres next month. They will involve a nuclearpowered US aircraft carrier and take place if North Korea strikes again.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin condemned Pyongyang’s missile tests as provocative but warned there was no solution to the problem other than dialogue. “They would rather eat grass than give up the (nuclear) programme if they do not feel safe. What can make them feel safe? The restoration of international law,” Putin said. He urged all sides concerned to co-operate.
“Clearly, sanctions and pressure alone cannot resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. One should not give in to emotions and drive North Korea into a corner,” Putin warned after talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
A senior researcher at Russia’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, Vasily Kashin, believes sanctions are useless. “In response, North Korea will simply raise the stakes and take more menacing actions in the hope that the opponent will back down. We may see new launches and tests and probably even military provocation,” he said.
The UN Security Council supported the US bid and imposed harsher sanctions on North Korea. They prohibit petroleum product supplies to the country and ban its textile exports.
American experts claim these and the previous sanctions should strip Pyongyang of 90% of its export revenue. Last year, North Korea’s exports were estimated at $2.7billion (R35.6bn), including $760million from textiles.
When the international community took stronger action against North Korea in early August after a series of missile tests, Moscow warned that the effect from sanctions had already reached its limit and called for resuming the six-party talks (North Korea, the US, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan).
Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, stressed after the UN Security Council vote that “Russia does not accept North Korea’s claims for nuclear power status and has supported all of the Security Council resolutions that demand an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear missile programmes in the interests of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.” He also warned further restrictive measures against North Korea could be tantamount to “attempts to stifle it”.
Although Russia is confident that sanctions are ineffective, it did not block the UN resolution. It agreed to support the document after its most controversial provisions had been deleted. Some of these called for the deportation of North Korean labour migrants (thousands of whom are working in Russia) and authorised the seizure and inspection of ships in open seas.
If China and Russia had blocked the Us-backed resolution, this would hardly have helped start the talks sooner. Moscow insists that they should resume in the six-party format that worked until 2009 when they were broken off.
Pending the talks, Russia and China will play an intricate game, supporting the pressure on North Korea to nudge it towards dialogue while urging Washington to settle the conflict diplomatically.
Moscow and Beijing will not let North Korea be destroyed.
Military Russia online portal founder Dmitry Kornev said North Korea could put up strong resistance and carry out a massive mobilisation if attacked.
“In the event of a large-scale conflict, after an attack by the US or its allies, we may expect Pyongyang’s invasion of South Korea, which is likely to succeed. The North is better armed and has a bigger army. Estimates vary, but its army is believed to be 690000 to 1.2million strong,” the expert told Russia Today.
“But Pyongyang will soon run out of luck and no one will stick up for it. Russia and China are likely to remain neutral, while South Korea will get all the assistance from the US,” Kornev said.
In his opinion, Pyongyang would be doomed to defeat, but the US would have to engage its ground forces. “It will be something like the air-and-ground operations we saw in Afghanistan and Iraq – certainly not a pleasure trip. It will most likely take about six months to destroy the North Korean army,” he said.
Kornev believes Pyongyang is well aware of the disastrous outcome of the war and does not want escalation. He attributes its constant sabrerattling to domestic political factors and hopes to get financial aid in exchange for talks.