The North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un met Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok. This was the first meeting between the two leaders. It was termed as an important meet; as Moscow and Pyongyang are Cold War allies and this meeting took place as Russia stepped up efforts to increase its influence in the region. It also helped Moscow to reassert itself once again in the regional conundrum after Russia seemed to be pushed back after the developments that took place between North Korea and US.
While the meeting between President Putin and North Korean leader Kim was on, military drills between US and South Korea also took place which outraged Pyongyang; though the scale of the drill was smaller in place of the large scale annual drill called ‘Key Resolve and Foal Eagle’ joint military drills.
As the negotiations between North Korea and the US had met with a stalemate in Hanoi, US had imposed fresh sanctions on Pyongyang. North Korea too has hyped up its criticism of the US in recent days.
Russia, since the Soviet times, has been an ally of Pyongyang; though the relationship has experienced its ups and downs because of Moscow’s balancing relations with South Korea. Moscow along with China had been supportive of the Pyongyang regime from being isolated as it could prove to be more dangerous to the peace and security in the regional and global level.
However, Moscow is supportive of the US’ policy of denuclearization in the Korean peninsula before lifting of the sanctions. Last year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had called for a phased lifting of sanctions in exchange for Pyongyang’s denuclearization. Russia supports dialogue rather than unilateral action such as use of force. It supported the stalled “six-party” talks to resolve the Korean Peninsula issue. Russia supports complete denuclearization; however, it also understands that this is an unrealistic demand on Washington’s part for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons completely without any concrete guarantees. The agenda of the Putin-Kim meet was to discuss issues for resolving the situation in the Korean Peninsula and developing bilateral relations between Russia and North Korea. After the meeting, President Putin said that the North Korean leader is interested in denuclearization. However, foremost he wanted a guarantee of his country’s national interests to ensure Pyongyang’s security. He said that Chairman Kim understands that this is achievable only if the partners of North Korea –primarily the US – are ready to engage in constructive dialogue. Mr. Putin also urged South Korea to be more independent of the US in its dealings with North Korea.
The North Korean leader said the situation in the peninsula has come to a standstill after the positive developments since 2018 because of US’ policies. He said that peace and security on the peninsula will ‘entirely depend’ upon the US’s future attitude. He also said that North Korea will till then guard itself from any event that might put the country’s security at stake.
The Kremlin described the talks between the two leaders as constructive. US President Donald Trump also praised President Putin’s efforts. For Moscow, this meeting was important as it helped to build its image as a pragmatic power that understands the geo-politics involved in the conflict. It also helps in protecting Moscow’s national interests in the region as Pyongyang’s closeness to America threatens Russia’s stakes.
Pyongyang has taken advantage of the tense relationship between Russia and the US by trying to have concessions from Moscow, especially in the economic sector. Cooperation with Russia also could help Pyongyang to lessen its dependence on China.
The meeting between the leaders of Russia and North Korea was successful as both the countries gave signals to the international community especially to the US and China for working out a breakthrough.
India is following the unfolding developments keenly. New Delhi hopes for a peaceful and stable Korean Peninsula which is important for regional security.
Script: Dr. Indrani Talukdar, Strategic Analyst On Russia