Korean Peninsula and Nuclear Missile Puzzles | Latest news The Moscow Post
25 September 2023

Korean Peninsula and Nuclear Missile Puzzles

The current events in Europe cannot be forgotten about the increase in tension on the Korean Peninsula, which at the same time can turn into a new, hitherto unprecedented "hot spot."

According to the correspondent of The Moscow Post, another briefing was held by the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova. Answering a question from our publication about the prospects for cooperation between Russia and the United States in a multilateral format on the issues of the DPRK nuclear missile program, Zakharova noted that Russia is determined to continue cooperation with all parties involved in the issue of the Korean settlement, the United States and its allies also include.

Recently, relations between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (RK) have escalated. Seoul and Washington returned to the dictionary of power confrontation with Pyongyang. In particular, the Minister of National Defense of South Korea, So Uk, recently announced the possibility of a preventive strike on the DPRK, its launchers and command posts. The Minister of Defense of Kazakhstan cannot independently decide to say something about the "preventive strike." Such words require American permission.

The South Korean minister had someone to lean on. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in December last year held talks in Seoul on joint actions in the event of a war with the DPRK. Before that, a meeting of the bilateral military committee was held with the participation of Mark Milley, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff and his South Korean counterpart Won In Chol. Following the discussions, Milley said that the United States adheres to the policy of "expanded deterrence" of the DPRK, is ready to use its military potential, including the nuclear component.

If we are not provoked

"If we are not provoked, we will never hit first." With these words, Kim Jong-un's sister warned Seoul of a "serious threat due to thoughtless comments" by So Wook, South Korea's national defense minister. "To say what happened to a nuclear-weapon country is a frivolous bravado that will not benefit them in the end," said Kim Yo-jung, deputy head of the propaganda and agitation department of the Central Committee of the Labor Party of Korea. It is clear that her statements required preliminary approval.

"If South Korea chooses a military confrontation, our nuclear forces will be forced to fulfill their duty," but Pyongyang does not consider South Korea to be the main enemy, the sister of the North Korean leader added. Her words are quoted by the Central Telegraph Agency of Korea (CTAC).

The DPRK in the US national defense strategy is ranked along with Russia, China and Iran as the main threats. Pyongyang declares Washington's unwillingness to negotiate security assurances and has ended a moratorium on missile tests. In particular, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and hypersonic missiles are tested. Sea-based missiles and mobile railway complexes are in line.

Pyongyang announced its intention to withdraw from the moratorium in January, explaining this by a military threat from the United States and Washington's hostile policy. The CTAC agency confirmed on March 24 that the DPRK conducted a test of the Hwason-17 ICBM, which was in flight for 65 minutes. According to Japanese data, the rocket landed 150 km west of the Oshima Peninsula (Hokkaido), within the Japanese economic zone. This was the 12th test of carriers since the beginning of the year. ICBM launches were carried out on February 27 and March 5, on March 16 the launch was unsuccessful. According to the South Korean military, the Hwason-17 ICBM is superior in characteristics to the Hwason-15, tested in November 2017. Then the ICBM was in flight for 53 minutes. Its range is estimated at 9-13 thousand km.

According to diplomats

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, it is possible to discuss the "denuclearization of the peninsula" only in the context of political dialogue and a comprehensive settlement, possibly in a "six-party" format. If the Americans and their allies want negotiations on unconditional unilateral disarmament of the DPRK with an eye to a subsequent regime change in this country, dialogue will not work, "said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov in an interview with TASS on January 28.

It seems that the main problem is to return Pyongyang to the negotiating table. In any case, representatives of the United States have repeatedly stated this. The easing of the international sanctions regime could signal a mood for dialogue, could confirm that "there is no hostility and desire to strangle the country economically." But Washington does not perceive this "logic and argument," Morgulov said.

Maria Zakharova recalled that at the end of October 2021, Russia and China distributed a draft resolution to the UN Security Council regarding the DPRK, proposing to soften the international sanctions regime in the humanitarian sphere, other civilian areas that are not related to the nuclear missile program.

The current situation on the Korean Peninsula has developed largely against the backdrop of sanctions, said Anna Evstigneeva, deputy permanent representative of Russia to the UN, on March 25. Numerous restrictive measures against the DPRK "have not been able to ensure security in the region." The so-called autonomous, secondary sanctions against the DPRK and other states, imposed by the United States and its allies bypassing and in excess of the UN Security Council sanctions, cause rejection, "Evstigneeva added.

The fate of the "double freeze"

In particular, the US Treasury announced additional restrictive measures against those who, according to Washington, were involved in the development of the military potential of the DPRK. Igor Morgulov said that Moscow is not related to the development of the DPRK missile potential.

According to him, tension on the Korean Peninsula may increase if the United States and the DPRK refuse to understand the understanding reached in 2018 at the summit in Singapore. Then Pyongyang decided to stop nuclear tests and missile launches, and Washington promised to refrain from large-scale military exercises on the peninsula with the involvement of strategic forces.

The Russian-Chinese "road map" offered exactly such a "exchange," called "double freezing." In this part, the joint initiative of the Russian Federation and China is consistent with the Singapore statement of the leaders of the DPRK and the United States of June 12, 2018. A departure from the provisions of this statement may mean a rollback to the 2017 crisis caused by the test of the Hwason-15 ICBM.

Since then, there has been a change of power in the United States and the question is whether the Biden administration will support the provisions of the Singapore statement agreed by Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump?

The document announced the complete elimination of North Korea's nuclear military capabilities in exchange for US security guarantees. But Pyongyang later said it did not see practical steps by the United States that increase pressure, demanding "advance" steps from the DPRK and ignoring its concerns.

Sanctions as a depreciating asset

A week passed, as on March 29, Joe Biden called on the DPRK to return to the negotiating table "for a serious and continuous diplomatic process," speaking to reporters along with Singapore Prime Minister Li Xian Moon. It is clear that Biden inherited a problem that grew in scale and complexity compared to what was in the time of Trump, who, in turn, set the level of negotiations with the DPRK, but did not succeed.

Discussing the problems of the DPRK in the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) a year ago, experts agreed that diplomacy at the highest level under the slogan "all or nothing" was not crowned with a solution to the problem, but led to a "loss of leverage" on the DPRK. Trump at first intended to intimidate North Korea, but then changed his tone and turned the negotiations in Singapore into "strangulation in the arms," the CFR said in February 2021.

Taking up the diplomacy of the summits, Donald Trump "violated the fragile five-party consensus that underpinned the international sanctions regime." He was proud of the regime of "key UN Security Council sanctions," which was created, but this regime, according to experts, is not particularly effective. Since 2017, the UN Security Council has not adopted new resolutions, the participants in the discussion complain.

With "democracies opposed to autocracies," Washington can hardly count on Beijing's full support on issues related to North Korea. The United States also cannot do without China and Russia as permanent members of the UN Security Council to push the DPRK to negotiations. But there were problems associated with the "eastern branch of NATO" in the form of AUKUS with a nuclear and hypersonic "filling."

American experts who worked with Pyongyang during the Bush era warn that it is likely that it will not be possible to reanimate the six-party negotiating format in the changed conditions. It is believed that North Korea may refuse to launch missiles and further improve them, provided that the existing arsenal is maintained. This can happen only in conditions of lifting sanctions, at least part of them.

But the domestic situation in the United States, Japan or South Korea is unlikely to favor this. Yoon Sok Yol, future President of Kazakhstan and Joe Biden "confirmed the strength of the bilateral military-political alliance," agreed to "maintain close coordination in responding to threats related to the DPRK's nuclear and missile programs."

Yoon Sok Yol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishidoy promised to work together to improve bilateral relations, strengthen the Japan-USA-South Korea triangle, and supported the deployment of additional THAAD missile defense systems. In the event of a threat to the national security of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Yoon Sok Yol said, a preventive strike against the DPRK is possible.

What should Russia do?

Russia's special military operation in Ukraine continues. Pressure on Russia comes from all sides, in all directions. Maria Zakharova noted that Russia appreciates the understanding and support that the DPRK shows on the issue of conducting a special operation. At least, an economic and trade war has been declared in Russia. The whole complex of relations with the West has to be rebuilt. There is talk that the world will never return to the state as before December 15, 2021. That day, the United States and NATO received a proposal to reduce tensions on Russia's western borders.

Americans continue to talk about the denuclearization of North Korea, although some of them understand that Pyongyang will not be returned back, especially in the face of sanctions and lack of security guarantees. Experts say that the DPRK intends to become a nuclear country with a full range of modern nuclear weapons.

In a sense, Pyongyang in its own way demonstrates rejection of the unipolar world order. What will this lead to and how will it affect the regional situation? Will the DPRK resume negotiations with the United States, negotiations in an expanded format?

Long-term peace on the Korean Peninsula is possible only if there is no pressure from the United States. This opinion was expressed by Secretary of the Security Council (SB) of the Russian Federation Nikolai Patrushev in a commentary on the Kommersant newspaper.

Maria Zakharova, answering a question from The Moscow Post correspondent, assured that Russia will "continue to be guided not by requests from individual states for help in solving their own problems. But exclusively our national interests, which are a systematic, comprehensive solution to the security problem in North-East Asia. "

Meanwhile, it is expected that the DPRK can test a small nuclear charge to equip tactical missiles. They even call the date - April 25, when the anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Revolutionary Army will be celebrated. Kazakh Foreign Minister Jung Yong Yong will take part in the ministerial meeting of NATO countries scheduled for April 6-7, supplementing its agenda with the topic of security on the Korean Peninsula.

Seoul has for many years adopted a deliberate and constructive position aimed at preventing confrontation between the two Koreas. At the same time, it is obvious that such a balanced line could not suit Washington, "said Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev.

Photo: press service of the Russian Foreign Ministry

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