New reporting has revealed that last fall Russian officials offered a nuclear power plant to North Korea as part of a secretive proposal. The offer was proposed in exchange for North Korea dismantling its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles with the intention of circumventing the stalled negotiations between Kim Jong Un and the Trump administration, which had reached an impasse. This information was sourced from United States officials who were made privy to the clandestine discussions between Russian and North Korean leaders.
According to the terms of the proposed deal, the Russian government would handle all operations at the nuclear plant and transport all the facilities’ byproducts and waste back to Russia in order to avoid the potential outcome of North Korea using the nuclear plant as a source of materials for nuclear weapons development and fabrication. In return for agreeing to this de-escalation of weapons research and development, the impoverished and isolated nation would be provided with a much-needed power source.
According to the story broken by the Washington Post, intelligence officials in the United States became aware of these backroom dealings late last year. The offer is just another in a long line of attempts by Russia to involve itself in the groundbreaking diplomatic talks between the U.S. and North Korea, as well as to assert its influence in other major geopolitical affairs ranging from the Middle East to South Asia to Latin America. If Moscow is looking to stir the pot, this latest revelation is sure to do the trick, as China and the U.S., who already have a strong foothold in the area, will not welcome Russia’s entrance into the Korean Peninsula’s economic or political landscapes.
Former White House staff member Victor Cha, who was in consideration last year to fill the position of U.S. ambassador to South Korea, condemned Russia’s secret nuclear energy proposal to North Korea. "The Russians are very opportunistic when it comes to North Korea, and this is not the first time they've pursued an energy stake in Korea," he said. He also warned that under the current administration, Russia could more easily get away with such brash measures, saying, "previous administrations have not welcomed these Russian overtures, but with Trump, you never know because he doesn't adhere to traditional thinking."
For its part, Moscow has outright denied all allegations of their alleged offer to North Korea, with the nation’s envoy to North Korea dismissing the Washington Post’s reporting as “stupidity.” Russian Ambassador Alexander Matsegora portrayed the reported story as illogical, saying, “A nuclear power plant is worth several billion dollars. The same, if not more, would go to a complete modernization of the energy infrastructure of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea], including its electrical networks.” Related: Softer U.S. Gasoline Demand Weighs On Oil Prices
While Russia’s backroom dealings with North Korea are just reaching headlines, the deadlocked negotiations between with the U.S. and North Korea that provoked them are now old news. Despite months of roadblocks and postponed or cancelled meetings, relations between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have thawed once again and diplomatic talks are once again moving forward, with a meeting between the two leaders on the books for late February.
Russia is not the only country claiming there are two sides to every story, however. Donald Trump is also sticking to a narrative of facts and alternative facts, dismissing reports that his talks with North Korea are more symbolic than productive. His outcry of unfair media coverage comes in response to reporting that despite the Trump administration's rhetoric of groundbreaking developments toward North Korean denuclearization, in reality Pyongyang has done very little to dismantle its nuclear programs.
Trump, meanwhile, is keeping his promises vague, saying, "With North Korea, we have a very good dialogue. I'm going to not go any further than that. I'm just going to say it's very special."
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com
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