While Trump was quoted as saying that Russia is not currently helping, the truth is that Russia is doing more to attempt and ease tensions on the Korean peninsula, than any other power.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has held a phone call with Donald Trump on the possibility of joint negotiations with North Korea. While few details have emerged from the conversation, the office of the Russian President has stated that Trump expressed his willingness to support Russian efforts to establish a multi-lateral dialogue with Pyongyang. The US President is quoted as saying.
“We would love to have his help on North Korea. China’s helping, Russia’s not helping. We’d like to have Russia’s help, very important”. While Trump’s remarks will be welcomed by many as they indicate a shift away from Washington’s position of threatening to “destroy” North Korea, Trump’s assessment is factually untrue. Over the last several months, Russia has intensified its diplomatic contacts with officials in Pyongyang, in an effort to try and reach an acceptable understanding with all sides, in-line with the joint Chinese-Russian Double Freeze peace proposals, which mandate that the DPRK cease its weapons tests while the US, South Korea and Japan simultaneously cease their military drills in the region.
Additionally, Vladimir Putin has proposed a tripartite economic cooperation scheme which would see South and North Korea cooperating with Russia over joint economic, trading and energy ventures. Both the South Korean President and North Korean officials have expressed interest in the proposals. Such a scheme, if implement could then be easily integrated into China’s existing One Belt–One Road initiative. North Korea’s latest missile test which saw the launch of the Hwasong-15 ICBM, is, according to North Korea itself, the crowing achievement of this parity. Unlike previous missiles launched by the DPRK which were medium range, the Hwasong-15 is almost certainly a fully-fledged ICBM. According to North Korea, it is capable of delivering a nuclear payload without breaking up upon re-entering earth’s atmosphere. There is of course only one way to know if this is entirely true and that would be if North Korea launched a nuclear weapon using the missile. Thus, such a question is not meaningful as the only way to find out of North Korea is bluffing is by running the risk of what is statistically known as a megadeath.
Kazbek Taisayev, the head of Russia’s legislative delegation who regularly corresponds with his North Korea counterparts has said, ‘We discussed this initiative of ours… They are ready for a dialogue,’ he said. ‘They are ready for talks. But they obviously mistrust everyone, except for Russia. My impression is that only Russia could act as a guarantor in such talks… They deem the US impossible to negotiate with’. Vitaly Pashin who also formed part of the Russian delegation to the DPRK stated, ‘We suggest a road map, so that in the future, not now, North Korea could give up on its nuclear program. We have discussed this issue with our colleagues, but they replied by saying that ‘we will never give up on the nuclear program amid the current situation’. They say, we [North Korea] have launched a ballistic missile… intentionally to be sure that we are safe’.
As the Russian President himself stated publicly, following from the precedent of the US attacking Libya and Iraq, countries which did not have a nuclear deterrent, it is only natural for North Korea to want what amounts to a geo-political insurance policy. Russia is aware that South Korea, Japan and even China are either worried or irritated by North Korea’s nuclear weapons, while also being aware that North Korea is frightened that if left defenceless, the US could do to it, what the US did during the Korean War. During that war, Pyongyang was entirely destroyed and 600,000 North Koreans were killed. As this happened in the lifetime of many older citizens of the DPRK, it really is not surprising that Pyongyang seeks to arm itself at a time when the US threatens to “destroy” North Korea a second time, as both Donald Trump and his UN Ambassador Nikki Haley have threatened many times.
By entering into negotiations without preconditions, Russia and both Korean states could eventually reach an accord, one that would likely be in line with the tripartite economic cooperation proposals which Vladimir Putin introduced in September of this year. At the time, South Korea said they are ready to discuss such plans now and North Korea said they will be ready in the future. Now that North Korea has achieved its much coveted nuclear parity, the time for such discussions to being will be soon according to Russia. This is of course entirely consistent with North Korea’s public statements.
Of the many differences between the US and Russia, one key difference is that while Russia listens to every country on earth, including the United States, the United States appears only to listen to itself. Is it any wonder that such a country is seen as a poor negotiating partner? Just ask Iran who agreed to de-escalate its own weapons programme, only to be continually threatened by the US and its Israeli partner, a country whose own illegal nuclear weapons are hardly ever discussed, even though it has been at war with every single one of its neighbours and continues to occupy both Syria and Palestine”.