How can the West deal with Moscow and Pyongyang?

7 Min Read

Written by Julian Ryall South Korea has joined the United States in condemning North Korea after Washington alleged last week that Pyongyang had provided munitions and weapons to Russia for its ongoing war in Ukraine. Seoul is considering additional measures against Pyongyang, a senior foreign ministry official said on Saturday. Analysts suggest there are few options left for exerting additional pressure on South Korea’s northern neighbor, which has managed to muddle through, despite the weight of a series of crippling international sanctions that have been imposed since the Pyongyang regime carried out a first nuclear test in 2006. They say that global geopolitics have shifted dramatically since that time and Pyongyang now finds itself closely aligned to both Russia and China as they face down the West. And those alliances-of-convenience are enabling North Korea to get around many sanctions, improve its military capabilities and try to further its own geopolitical ambitions in northeast Asia. South Korea condemns exchange Referring to relations between Russia and North Korea, a statement on Saturday, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said: “Any weapons exchanges between the two are a clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and a threat to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.” The comments came after US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington that North Korea had delivered 1,000 containers of military supplies to Russia. According to the US government, shipping containers were seen being placed aboard a North Korean ship in North Korea’s Najin port and then transported to the port of Dunay in the Russian Far East. From there, satellites tracked the shipment to an ammunition depot near the town of Tikhoretsk, about 290 kilometers (180 miles) from the border with Ukraine. Similar footage analysed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington DC, showed a sharp increase in train traffic transporting containers over the North Korean border with Russia. Both Moscow and Pyongyang have denied that North Korea is sending weapons to Russia. ‘Resentment of the West’ While Russia benefits militarily and North Korea is expected to receive fuel, food and military technology in return, the two will have an opportunity to strengthen bilateral relations and “cause mischief” for the West, said Dan Pinkston, a professor of international relations at the Seoul campus of Troy University. “Both of these countries have a deep sense of grievance against the West and a desire to overturn the international order,” he said. “We can add other players to that list — China and Iran, for example — whose grievances are not all exactly the same, but all harbor resentment of the West.” And while none of the nations forming this new “anti-democratic alliance” entirely trust each other, he added, they will cooperate as long as it is in their interests to do so. In the case of Russia and North Korea, the collaboration could last a long time. “These two countries want a very different security architecture to now,” he said. Russian leader Vladimir Putin wants to destroy NATO and the European Union, while North Korea wants the 1953 Korean War Armistice dismantled and, arguably, to control the southern half of the Korean peninsula. “These are transactional actors who are acting opportunistically as they have the chance to take advantage of the current global geopolitical situation,” Pinkston said. At the same time, he added, for North Korea there is a degree of prestige in an enhanced alliance with Russia, a superpower, that will salvage some of the dishonor that Kim Jong Un feels. The danger is that yet more sanctions on Pyongyang from the US or South Korea will do little to dent Kim’s regime, while Russia has already indicated that, armed with a veto in the UN Security Council, it will not countenance additional UN pressure on North Korea. North Korea’s specific skill set It has even been suggested that North Korea has managed to skillfully survive sanctions for so long — reportedly making the most of hacking attacks to steal vast amounts of cryptocurrencies, diplomatic bags to smuggle narcotics and illicitly obtained funds, as well as other underhand maneuvers — that it may be willing to teach Russia some of the tricks it has developed in return for nuclear weapons and missile technology. Park Jung-won, a professor of international law at Dankook University, said that North Korea was likely to “continue to take provocative positions and make the best use of the favorable international situation for its own ends.” It will not have escaped Pyongyang’s notice that US politics is “paralyzed” at the moment, he said. North Korea will also be aware that Ukraine and the Middle East are holding the world’s attention and that with Russia as a friend in the UN Security Council, additional sanctions are likely to be limited in scope and impact. “This is all favorable to the North and I expect them to continue to take advantage of this uncertainty until the US elections next year,” Park said. “Only once we know who will be the next US president might things stabilize.”

Share This Article
By admin
test bio
Leave a comment
Please login to use this feature.