North Korea gives Russia cold shoulder

30 04 2009

Sunny Lee, Beijing Correspondent, The National (April 29. 2009)

lavrov_kangAs the international community seeks to defuse tensions in the wake of North Korea’s recent long-range rocket launch, the tepid reception given to Russia’s foreign minister in Pyongyang last week reveals a strained relationship between the one-time allies, and is a sign of China’s strong influence, analysts said…

…“At this point, there is no leverage for Russia to exert North Korea into doing something,” said Leonid Petrov, a Russian expert on Korean affairs. “The 2006 nuclear experiment and the rocket or missile launch this year demonstrated that North Korea has no interest in listening to what Moscow [says].”

Russia’s waning influence on Pyongyang has been supplanted by the growing influence of China, which once competed with Russia for leverage in North Korea during the Cold War. Those days are long gone as China has established itself as the country’s most important ally.

That point was starkly illustrated during Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov’s stopover in Seoul after visiting Pyongyang. In a press conference there, the Russian diplomat debriefed the South Korean press on the results of his visit to the North, which had originally been undertaken to urge Northern leaders to resume the six-party talks on their nuclear programme. “North Korea, at the moment, doesn’t have an intention of returning to the talks,” Mr Lavrov reported.

Seoul had also hoped Moscow would play a mediating role on the contentious issue of transporting natural gas from Russia, through North Korea, to the South. Little progress seems to have been made on this point either. “I need to mention that this project is very difficult to realise,” Mr Lavrov said when asked about its status.

Pyongyang also reportedly turned down a Russian proposal to have North Korea use Russian facilities to launch a satellite in the future. Pyongyang maintains that its rocket launch last month was to test its ability to put a satellite in orbit.

To highlight the North’s disinterest in Russian overtures, and to make matters worse, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il failed to meet the Russian envoy, a protocol his father, the late leader Kim Il-sung, had maintained. When asked about this slight, Mr Lavrov said that it was not done because he “didn’t ask for it”.

South Korean media, initially holding out hope that the Russian envoy would bring a “deal proposal” from Pyongyang, did not conceal their disappointment, saying: “Unlike our expectation, he came from Pyongyang empty-handed,” said MBC, a major broadcaster.

Despite his unproductive trip, the Russian envoy surprisingly showed support for the North by exhibiting what analysts termed “undiplomatic” behaviour at a joint press conference in Seoul. After South Korean foreign minister Yu Myung-hwan described the two countries’ support for UN sanctions on the North, Mr Lavrov replied angrily, “I need to state that the sanctions are unconstructive”…

…After the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the cash-strapped Russian government demanded Pyongyang pay back in hard currency its debts to Moscow, which, Mr Petrov said, “dealt a major blow in the Russo-North Korea relationship”.

Russian interest and influence in North Korea declined steadily in the 1990s, especially after Moscow established diplomatic ties with South Korea, which Pyongyang felt to be a betrayal. The relationship was salvaged somewhat in 2000, when Russia’s president at the time, Vladimir Putin, made a historic visit to North Korea, the first ever by a Russian leader.

That, however, does not mean today’s relationship between the erstwhile friends is back to the same level as during the Cold War. “The two countries used to be allies, but now they are neither friends nor foes,” said Mr Funabashi.

See the full text here…

“North Korea: Still in the Axis of Evil?”

28 04 2009

The Department of Social Science at the Illinois Institute of Technology wishes to announce a lecture by Bruce Cumings (University of Chicago): “North Korea: Still in the Axis of Evil?” (Wednesday, April 29, 2009, 4-5:30pm) Illinois Institute of Technology Main Campus, Wishnick Hall, Auditorium (Room 113)

Professor Bruce Cumings will examine the disconnects in the 60-year confrontation between the United States and North Korea. Although the U.S. has labeled North Korea as a “rogue state” and as part of the “axis of evil,” American media and most pundits rarely consider the background to the U.S. conflict with Pyongyang. This history includes the 1945–48 American military occupation of South Korea, the Korean War, and America’s role in introducing nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula in 1958. Today, North Korea continues to challenge the U.S., most recently by attempting to put a satellite in orbit.

Bruce Cumings teaches international history, modern Korean history, and East Asian political economy at the University of Chicago, where he is the Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor. He is the author of several books, including the award-winning two-volume study, The Origins of the Korean War. Cumings is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of fellowships from the Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, the MacArthur Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study at Stanford, and the Abe Fellowship Program of the Social Science Research Council.


21 04 2009

Как и предполагал Newsweek (см. 16.03.2009), кризис вокруг ракетно-ядерной программы КНДР получил продолжение. 14 апреля Северная Корея заявила, что выходит из шестисторонних переговоров по разоружению, выгоняет инспекторов Агентства по атомной энергетике (МАГАТЭ) и вводит в строй объект по наработке оружейного плутония в Йонбене, который эти инспектора и проверяли. Официальное объяснение Пхеньяна: чересчур жесткая реакция международного сообщества на запуск ракеты-носителя со спутником в начале месяца. В Совете безопасности ООН запуск расценили как нарушение резолюции 1718, запрещающей Корее испытывать баллистические ракеты.

Однако жестким такой ответ назвать нельзя: Совбез принял даже не резолюцию, а заявление, не предполагающее каких-либо санкций. По-видимому, запуск ракеты был пробным шаром в реализации новой внешнеполитической линии Севера. <Пхеньян выиграл бы в любом случае: если на пуск никак не отреагируют – мы продолжим в том же духе; если раскритикуют – публично обидимся и получим основание вооружаться>, – объясняет северокорейскую логику эксперт Леонид Петров из Национального университета Австралии.

В прошлом году Пхеньян уже выгонял инспекторов из Йонбёна, но всего на несколько дней. <Тогда корейцы добивались, чтобы США исключили их из списка стран, поддерживающих терроризм>, – говорит аналитик International Crisis Group Дэниел Пинкстон. Однако в этот раз КНДР только и ждала повода для того, чтобы возобновить работы на реакторе. Если раньше Пхеньян обещал разоружиться, то теперь проводит жесткую линию, вероятно, решив, что терять уже нечего.

<Высылка инспекторов МАГАТЭ – это еще не беда. Если они скажут, что взорвут еще и атомную бомбу – вот тогда будет проблема, – уверен Петров. – Международному сообществу еще придется уговаривать корейцев вернуться за стол переговоров>. Ведь помешать новому запуску ракеты или ядерному испытанию Пхеньяна не сможет никто. Символично, что КНДР выгнала инспекторов накануне дня рождения первого лидера КНДР Ким Ир Сена. Страна ушла на праздники, дав мировому сообществу время на размышления.

См. оригинал статьи здесь…

Шестисторонние переговоры обречены

17 04 2009

…В последнее время отношения Северной Кореи с внешним миром стремительно ухудшались. Пхеньян вдрызг рассорился с Сеулом — порвал с ним все контакты, отключил межправительственную связь и объявил мобилизацию. Россия привела в полную боеготовность системы ПВО на Дальнем Востоке. Япония и США направили к восточному побережью Северной Кореи эсминцы, оснащенные системой ПРО, и пригрозили сбить ракету. КНДР в ответ пригрозила вторгнуться в Южную Корею. «Времена, когда Мадлен Олбрайт пила шампанское с Кимом в Пхеньяне, а лидеры двух Корей обнимались, закончились, – объясняет Леонид Петров, эксперт-кореист из Национального университета Австралии. – Отношения вернулись к временам конца холодной войны»…

…Проблема еще в том, что никто не знает, что творится в кабинетах, а уж тем более в умах северокорейских руководителей. В прошлом году у Ким Чен Ира неожиданно возникли проблемы со здоровьем – он надолго исчез с экранов телевизоров. Считается, что в то время корейский вождь еще продолжал линию на диалог с Вашингтоном – несмотря на противодействие силовиков. Корея даже остановила ядерную программу в надежде на то, что Америка вычеркнет ее из списка стран, поддерживающих терроризм. По данным информированных источников Newsweek, это должно было произойти 11 августа 2008 года. Но США не торопились. 12 августа председателя Кима внезапно хватил удар. Еще один удар случился с ним в октябре.

«С тех пор в политике Пхеньяна начался откат. Генералы стали принимать бесконтрольные решения, что погубило отношения с американцами и южанами, — объясняет Петров из Национального университета Австралии — Конгресс все-таки вычеркнул КНДР из злополучного списка в сентябре, однако было поздно. Корейцы еще в середине августа приостановили демонтаж ядерного объекта». В декабре прошлого года стороны вернулись к шестисторонним переговорам, но дальше встречи в Пекине дело не пошло. 

«Если все пять членов “шестерки”, кроме КНДР, будут придерживаться общей позиции, то Северной Корее придется прислушаться к голосу разума, – надеется бывший специальный помощник президента Буша и директор управления по делам Восточной Азии Совета национальной безопасности США Дэнис Уайлдер. – Россия и Китай могут помочь Ким Чен Иру вернуться за стол переговоров. Иначе Восточной Азии грозит гонка вооружений».

Но Леонид Петров уверен, что Россия и Китай не помогут. «Многосторонние переговоры обречены. Ядерная проблема КНДР упирается в двусторонние отношения с Америкой», – утверждает он. Корейцы даже пытались попасть на инаугурацию Обамы, но их не пригласили. «Им хочется иметь с американцами дипотношения – это гарантия, что их не разбомбят, – поясняет Бэйкер из Stratfor. – Но напрямую они этого не могут сделать, поэтому пока используют шестисторонние переговоры, заставляя США разговаривать с ними»…

См. весть текст здесь…

Mikhail Nikolaevich Pak passed away yesterday

17 04 2009

The eminent Russian historian of Korea, Mikhail Nikolaevich Pak, passed away yesterday, April 16, 2009.  Born on June 21, 1918, his death marks the end of an epoch in the study of Korean history in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

M. N. Pak wrote his Candidate’s dissertation in History (the equivalent of the Ph.D. degree) at Moscow M. V. Lomonosov State University in 1947 and his Doktor dissertation (a more advanced degree) at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. in 1960.  Entitled "Ocherki iz politicheskoi istorii Korei vo vtoroi polovine XIX veka" [Studies on the Political History of Korea during the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century], his Candidate’s dissertation focused on some of the major problems in the political history of Korea during the second half of the nineteenth century including the "opening" of Korea to both Japan and the West and the role of Korea in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95.

His Doctorate dissertation was entitled "Kim Busik: Samkuk Sagi" [Samguk sagi by Kim Pu-sik].  Published in 1959 (prior to his receipt of his doktor ist. nauk degree), it consists of an introduction, the edited text of the Samguk sagi, and Pak’s annotated translation of this Koryo (Goryeo) period historical compilation.  The published dissertation includes a facsimile reproduction of books 1-12 of the original fifty books (in Korean) that were housed as of the late 1950s in the Leningrad branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R.

M. N. Pak was a prolific author.  The Library of Congress online catalog lists eleven of his monographs and edited volumes that were published between 1951 and 2006, and there most likely are additional titles that are held only by other libraries.

Furthermore, M. N. Pak was also the supervisor of at least twelve Candidate’s dissertations by such Russian scholars in Korean Studies as Konstantin Valerianovich Asmolov, Roza Shotaevna Dzharylgasinova, Aleksei Akekseevich Proshin, Riu Khakku, Tatiana Mikhailovna Simbirtseva, Aleksandr Valer’evich Solovev, Vladimir Mikhailovich Tikhonov, Aleksandr Andreevich Timonin, IUrii Vasil’evich Vanin, and Sergei Vladimirovich Volkov.

Finally, the following information [slightly edited for this posting] about M. N. Pak’s life and very distinguished career is taken from his "personal page" as posted by the International Center for Korean Studies at the Institute of Asian and African Studies of Moscow State University.  It appears at

Professor Mikhail N. Pak:

Full Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, the Head of the Euro-Asian Research Division, Professor at the Institute of Asian and African Studies, Professor at Moscow State University, Director of the International Center for Korean Studies.

Fields of Interest: examination of socio-economic and political trends of historical development during various periods of Korean history, Oriental historiography.

A life-time work was devoted to the translation of and research on the Samguk Sagi (Historical Records of Three Kingdoms).

For almost half a century, a teacher of general and special courses on Korean history at Moscow State University.

Visiting fellow (1978) at Soka University (Japan); 1982 awarded an Honor Certificate of the Fulbright Foundation; during the 1980-90s participated in numerous international conferences in the Republic of Korea and the DPRK, Japan, China, the United States, Great Britain, Sweden and other countries; in 1990 was elected the Vice-President of the International Society for Korean Studies, since 1997 served as an Advisor for that Society.

In 1991 was elected as the first President of the United Association of Koreans in the Soviet Union. Subsequently he served as an Advisor for the Moscow Association of Russian Koreans and the Russian Association of Koreans.

Author of 250 publications on various aspects of the history of Korea.

Additional information in such biographical Dictionaries as: Marquis· "Who is Who in the World" (USA – ed. 14 and 15), and "2000 Outstanding People of the 20th Century" (International Biographical Center, Cambridge) and awarded Diploma and Medals.

China’s N.Korea Influence on Wane

6 04 2009

The Australian (April 06, 2009)

kimyongiihu-jin-taoBEIJING: North Korea’s rocket launch showed China did not have as much influence on Kim Jong-il’s regime as some believed, despite being its main economic and political ally, analysts said. Leading up to the launch, China came under widespread pressure to use its influence on its communist neighbour not to go ahead.

North Korea had said it was launching a communications satellite, but the US, South Korea and Japan were concerned it was actually a long-range missile and said North Korea breached a UN Security Council resolution.

China undoubtedly has more influence with North Korea than anyone else, as evidenced by Mr Kim’s visit to Beijing last month and other high-level contacts between the two countries. But John Feffer of the US-based Institute for Policy Studies said the secretive regime in Pyongyang did not in any way feel beholden to the leadership in Beijing. “The historical ties and ideological similarities no longer exert any influence,” Mr Feffer said. “North Korea is dubious of ‘older brother’ pressure” and “does not want a subservient relationship”.

Leonid Petrov, an associate researcher at the Australian National University, said China would have made its views about the rocket launch known to the regime in Pyongyang. “But (China) does it very cautiously out of fear of losing its remaining leverage on North Korea,” he said.  China wanted to keep its influence for a time when it was really needed to protect its interests.

The UN Security Council was due to meet overnight to discuss the launch, but experts said China, a permanent member of the council, was likely to veto any move for sanctions on its ally.

Mr Petrov said proof of China’s weak hand with North Korea came when Pyongyang conducted its first and only atomic test in October 2006. A Chinese envoy was the first foreign official to meet Mr Kim in Pyongyang soon after the test, which lifted North Korea’s nuclear programs to the top of the global political agenda. North Korea defied Chinese calls not to go ahead with the test and Pyongyang informed Beijing of the test only 20 minutes in advance, Mr Petrov said.

Analysts say one way China can exert some influence on the impoverished nation is through the delivery of food and energy. North Korea’s economy, ravaged by poor economic planning and international sanctions, is largely kept afloat by China. Last year, Beijing increased its exports to North Korea by 46 per cent to more than $US2billion ($2.79 billion), according to Chinese figures, accounting for a large proportion of the nation’s food and energy supplies. These deliveries have in the past been used by China to put pressure on Pyongyang.

“China has applied pressure in the past to get North Korea to come to the negotiating table and take more flexible positions,” Mr Feffer said. China is reluctant to use this leverage too dramatically because it dreads triggering an influx of refugees across its 1400km-long porous border with North Korea. “I am not sure if China has any significant level of influence over North Korea,” said Jing-dong Yuan, director of the East Asia non-proliferation program at the US-based Monterey Institute of International Studies.