Russian Federation Pres. Vladimir Putin September 6, 2017, began taking the initiative to control the “crisis” over North Korean strategic weapons, because Russia had more at stake in resolving the issue than perhaps any other nation-state.
There was strong evidence that Pres. Putin was working to orchestrate a breakthrough resolution of the challenge by the international community to the DPRK over Pyongyang’s growing demonstration of its nuclear (and possibly thermonuclear) and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities.
Pres. Putin’s initiative would discreetly circumvent the U.S.’ and the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) initiatives, and yet at the same time deliver what both of those powers had been seeking: a brokered peace accord between North and South Korea.
Such a deal would pave the way for Russia’s key objective, and one supported by Japan and South Korea: a stable and peaceful relationship between North and South Korea which would permit the construction of logistical lines (road and rail links) all the way up the Korean Peninsula, linking to the Russian railway network at Vladivostok, and then on to Western Europe. This would break the PRC’s monopoly on the “Silk Road” across Eurasia, and one which currently makes the Russian rail networks some 70 percent dependent on the PRC for their viability.
A “second Silk Road” across the North of Eurasia (through Russia) would limit the PRC’s control of the Continent, and would provide a major boost for the Russian, North Korean, South Korean, Japanese, and possibly the Republic of China (ROC: Taiwan) economies.
North and South Korean diplomats were already on Russky Island, near Vladivostok, in the Russian Far East, by September 6, 2017, to attend the Eastern Economic Forum (September 6-7, 2017), which began a day after the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit ended in Beijing on September 5, 2017. Delegations from Russia, the PRC, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, and Vietnam participated in the Eastern Economic Forum, along with international private investors.
South Korean Pres. Moon Jae-in, in Vladivostok on September 6, 2017, asked Pres. Putin for help in resolving the crisis with North Korea. And Russia, significantly, is the foreign power which Pyongyang trusts most. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is known to be chafing under the relationship he has with the PRC which, he feels, neither respects him nor North Korea, and only supports Pyongyang in order to keep it away from possible reunification with South Korea and to keep external powers (the U.S.) from gaining a foothold, again, close to the Yalu River border between North Korea and the PRC. Indeed, the USSR was the major ally of North Korea up to and including the Korean War, and the PRC only became involved in the Korean War when it appeared as though an existential threat existed with U.S. forces crossing the Yalu River and threatening nuclear war against the PRC.
The U.S. had, in early September 2017, been close to its “end game” with North Korea: that “end game” being actual negotiations to achieve what Pres. Putin was now attempting to achieve: a formal peace treaty between Pyongyang and Seoul to end the Korean War, and mutual recognition between North and South Korea with an end to South Korea’s demand for reunification of the Korean Peninsula. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on August 22, 2017, held out the promise that the time was now ripe for direct talks with North Korea. That appeared to be derailed by the detonation of a 120kt nuclear or thermonuclear weapon on September 3, 2017 (the sixth and largest nuclear detonation on North Korean soil), and the launch of an unarmed North Korean ICBM overflying Japan on August 29, 2017. Related: How EIA Guestimates Keep Oil Prices Subdued
It was clear that Pres. Putin, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and South Korean Pres. Moon were ready to go along with Pres. Trump’s proposed coup de main to achieve a sudden breakthrough and resolution with North Korea (a “Nixon to China” moment), but domestic U.S. political pressures appeared to be making it difficult for Pres. Trump to be able to engineer the move, given the build-up of demand in the U.S. for the total removal of all nuclear weapons and ICBMs from North Korea.
This opened the door for Pres. Putin to negotiate the peace deal between South Korea and North Korea in a move which would deprive Pres. Trump of that coup de main, to the relief of Beijing, going into the 19th Communist Party Congress, opening in Bejing on October 18, 2017. The PRC would lose a measure of control over North Korea, but it would still be neutral, and the U.S. would be deprived of a diplomatic victory and leverage.
By GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Staff.
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