If China falls out with North Korea, then Russia will step in

27 04 2017

Pyongyang-MoscowKirsty Needham (Sydney Morning Herlad, Beijing, 24 APRIL 2017)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has told his US counterpart Donald Trump that Beijing opposes any action on the Korean Peninsula that goes against UN Security Council resolutions.

The phone call between the two leaders came as Chinese media reported on a rift between Beijing and Pyongyang, with North Korean state media criticising China as “dancing to the tune of the US”…

The US has repeatedly urged China to use its economic clout to put pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, warning that if China cannot produce a solution, the US may act alone.

Mr Xi told Mr Trump the international situation was changing rapidly and it was important the US and China maintain close contact, Chinese state media reported.

“Xi Jinping stressed that China is firmly against any behaviours that violate the UN Security Council’s resolution, at the same time it hopes all parties concerned maintain restraint, avoid doing anything intensifying the peninsula situation,” CCTV reported.

Asked about the North Korean media attack, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said: “China’s position is consistent and clear and the relevant party should be very clear about that.”

Chinese experts are saying cutting oil would be the toughest sanction China could impose – it was last done in 2003 for just three days.

North Korea’s mining industry would be severely hit if China cut energy supply to the regime.

The front page of North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Monday praised the DPRK’s mining industry as self-reliant, exceeding capacity and “smashing the enemies’ sanctions”.

Kim Jong-un sent congratulations to a magnesite mine – a mineral that is exempt from UN sanctions. North Korea has the world’s second largest deposits of magnesite, a raw material listed as “critical” by the US and the European Union and a key component in smartphones and aircraft. China has the world’s largest deposits.

Leonid Petrov, an ANU fellow, says China is buying other rare earth minerals that are vital for high-technology products at half price from North Korea. He says if relations between Pyongyang and Beijing continue to deteriorate, Pyongyang could cut off sales to China and find new export markets elsewhere.

“If China falls out with North Korea, then Russia will step in. North Korea allows China and Russia to compete for concessions and ports and fishing,” he said.

See the full article here…





Russia Friendship Section Added to ARIRANG Mass Games

23 07 2013

NK-Russia-friendship-ARIRANGby Chad O’Carroll (NK News, 23 July 2013) Headline image by Koryo Tours.

SEOUL – North Korea has added a chapter on Russian friendship to the Arirang Mass Games, a source who attended the show on Monday night told NK News.

The new section includes a banner that says “Russian friendship [carries on] century by century” and represents the first time North Korea has included a section specifically focusing on relations with Russia during its Mass Games.

“The role of the USSR in the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule has always been acknowledged by Pyongyang. But with this news perhaps Pyongyang is trying to play the Russian card in its diplomatic game with China,” Dr. Leonid Petrov, a researcher at Australia National University told NK News.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea often used its relationship between Moscow and Beijing to gain competing concessions from the two superpowers. Dr. Petrov speculates that following increasing reliance on China in recent years, the DPRK might now be using Arirang to fan a closer relationship with Russia.

“Kim Jong Un desperately needs closer links with and more developmental aid from China. The best strategy in this game would be that he use the tried and tested policy of maintaining ‘equidistance’ from Beijing and Moscow,” Dr. Petrov explained via email.

In addition to the new Russia chapter, the manner in which China was presented was also different, the source said. “The Chinese part was shortened this year, they still had the friendship section but it seemed a lot shorter. I didn’t see so much about the pandas last night,” the source told NK News after watching the inaugural show.

The Mass games normally includes a major chapter on North Korea’s relationship with China, though experts had predicted it was likely this would change following an apparent “frosting” of diplomatic relations between Beijing and Pyongyang in recent months.

“[North Korea has] been so angry with China this year, do they want to send a message to the Chinese by dropping the friendship chapter? Or if there is a big overhaul and thus a change in the narrative story of the performance, perhaps this is a good opportunity to drop the awkwardly placed chapter in a fairly natural way,” Andray Abrahamian, a Director at Chosun Exchange, told NK News.

Another notable change to this year’s proceedings was the inclusion of a short chapter on North Korean relations with the entire world. The performers formed an olive branch, possibly as a metaphor of the country’s own self-professed willingness to seek better relations with the rest of the world.

“It was very brief, just a glimpsing moment – but it was interesting and a change from last year,” the source told NK News. The theme of this year’s mass games is focused on the 60th anniversary of the Korean War (known as the Fatherland Liberation War in North Korea) and the 65th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK.

The Arirang mass games, a 120,000 person gymnastic and artistic performance, started in 2002, and tells a “grand story of a divided peninsula and how North Korea became a dignified nation,” according to North Korean state media.





North Korea Enters “State of War”

31 03 2013

APTOPIX North Korea Rally(NKnews.org March 30, 2013) North Korea is entering a “state of war” with South Korea, according to a statement made this morning by the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA). Pyongyang’s latest warning pointed out that U.S. bases in Hawaii and Guam would be targeted in what could turn into “an all-out war, a nuclear war.”

“From this moment, the North-South relations will be put at the state of war, and all the issues arousing between the North and the South will be dealt with according to the wartime regulations,” North Korean state media outlet KCNA said today. “If the U.S. and the South Korean puppet group perpetrate a military provocation for igniting a war against the DPRK (North Korea) in any area… it will not be limited to a local war but develop into an all-out war, a nuclear war”.  KCNA added that the “time has come to stage a do-or-die final battle”.

But despite the increasing rhetoric, Denis Samsonov, a public relations officer working at the Russian embassy in North Korea, told Russia’s NTV that the situation in Pyongyang remains “calm”. “Basically, life in the city is as usual…We are witnessing no tension.” The Russian Foreign Ministry ambassador at large, Grigoriy Logvinov, told Interfax News that although he hoped all sides would “show restraint”, Russia would not “remain uninvolved under conditions when tension is fomenting near our eastern borders”.

Leonid Petrov, an Australian National University Korean Studies Researcher, told NK NEWS that the ”state of war” marked a sharp turning point. “After 60 years of slow-motion war thinly covered by the 1953 Armistice Agreement, Pyongyang has finally found the courage to call a spade a spade. The ambiguity of the current situation is no longer tolerable for North Korea, who is tired of sanctions, double standards, and nuclear bullying.” He added, “Neither peace nor war has led to famine, stagnation or isolation of this rich and strategically important part of Northeast Asia. By proclaiming “state of war” with South Korea, Kim Jong Un is simply reminding the world about this unresolved problem, inherited from the Cold War era.”

Despite the increase in rhetoric, a military source told South Korean news agency Yonhap News that the Korean People’s Army was not currently showing signs of war preparations or unusual moves. Yonhap added that the South Korean defense ministry viewed the latest statement as an”unacceptable threat that hurts peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula”.

In the U.S., the White house said that it would be taking North Korea’s threats seriously. ”We’ve seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from North Korea,” Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council told AFP.

Steve Chung, a Research Fellow at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said the “state of war” was merely a new deployment of old North Korean rhetoric. “We have seen Pyongyang using similar verbal threats before. North Korea has routinely warned Seoul of things like a ‘Sea of Flames’, ‘Sacred War’, and even ‘Pre-Emptive Nuclear Strikes’. So while this is a revision of previous rhetoric, it may only have a limited effect.” Chung added, “the two Koreas are still technically in a ‘state-of-war’, because the 60 year old armistice only serves as a temporarily halt to war, not an end to the Korean War.”

Meanwhile, Beijing based experts talking to Chinese media said that Thursday’s deployment of B-2 bombers, which can carry up to 16 nuclear weapons, was a “shock-and-awe” symbol of U.S. escalation. On CCTV’s “Focus Today”, North Korea expert Li Li said the bombers’ deployment was a reflection of the U.S. attempt to “counter North Korea’s nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons.” Xinhua News, a Chinese state news outlet, pointed out that “it’s time for both sides to take a step back and let the cooler minds prevail”, weary of the escalation of threat.

However, North Korean media added in a later bulletin that in the event of conflict, victory would  be “certain”. Pyongyang has threatened attacks almost daily since it was sanctioned for its February nuclear test. Some observers suggest the threats indicate the potential of regime instability. Few think though that North Korea will follow up and actually commence major hostilities.

The latest rhetoric appears to be a tit-for-tat response to Thursday’s U.S. stealth bomber training that saw two B-2’s fly from Missouri to drop ordinance on an island in the southern half of the Korean peninsula. U.S. officials said the flights were not designed to raise tensions, but reduce them by bolstering deterrence in face of North Korea’s recent vitriolic provocations.

Both Pyongyang and Seoul have labelled each other’s rhetoric as ‘provocative’ in recent weeks, and their own military exercises as ‘defensive’. North Korea has declared the peace agreement that ended the Korean War to be “void”, and has threatened preemptive nuclear strikes on both Japan and the U.S.





Coping with North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions

15 03 2013

Alexander Zhebin_1Hosted by the Australian Institute of International Affairs, this event will start on Monday, 18 March 2013, at 6:00 PM, at The Glover Cottages, 124 Kent Street, Sydney NSW.

With North Asia now on full alert in the light of the increasingly menacing rhetoric from Pyongyang following the latest round of UN sanctions, AIIA NSW is staging a special event on Monday March 18.

AIIA NSW is proud to present Dr Alexander Zhebin, director of the Centre for Korean Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, who is visiting Australia.

Dr Zhebin, who has lived and worked in North Korea earlier in his career when he was a correspondent for the Russian news agency, TASS, will argue that the promise of economic gain has not been sufficient to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions.

He will argue  that: “For the North Korean regime security is a top priority. The nuclear problem cannot be resolved without addressing the DPRK’s reasonable security concerns. The DPRK is trying to normalize its relations with the US because through achieving this goal Pyongyang hopes to get the security guarantees or, at least, to create such a security environment under which it would be much more difficult for the US to use force against North Korea. Beijing continues to treat the DPRK as an important buffer state which separates China from the US forward-deployed forces in East Asia. Russia does not want to see the arch of instability stretching closer to its doorstep in the Far East and, even less so, a new “hot war” in the region.

“This approach determines Russia’s position on the nuclear problem in Korea. After the events in Libya the West’s political guarantees have lost their credibility in the eyes of Pyongyang’s leadership. Only a consistent engagement policy, aimed at the genuine involvement of DPRK in globalization and cooperation processes in Northeast Asia and pursued by South Korea and by the West, can convince the North Korean elite that the international community is not contemplating a regime change scenario.

We apologise for the late notice of this event, but feel members and others interested in the most pressing global conflict of our time will want to meet Dr Zhebin and discuss his views.

Alexander Zhebin is a renowned  specialist on Korean Studies in Moscow. Before joining the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies, he worked for 17 years as a journalist at the TASS News Agency. During his time with TASS he was a correspondent and then later became the Pyongyang bureau chief. After his journalism career he became a diplomat and worked in the Russian Embassy in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. Having lived such a long time in the country, Mr. Zhebin decided to continue with his study of the region and in 2004 he became the director of the Centre for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Mr. Zhebin is also the author of numerous articles on political development in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Russia-North Korea relations, and security of the Korean peninsula.

AIIA members: $15.00;  Senior/student members: $10.00
Visitors:  $25.00;  Student visitors: $15.00

RSVP: here…
All inquiries:   nsw.branch@aiia.asn.au





Moscow Supports Kim Jong-Un

29 06 2012

(By Leonid Petrov, The Montréal Review, 28 July 2012)

Russia claims it is willing to link divided Korea with energy pipelines and electricity grids. But its economic relations with North Korea indicate a return to the Cold War politics of the past.

In 1948 Stalin sponsored the creation of the DPRK in the Northern half of the Korean peninsula. The following year, Prime Minister Kim Il-sung travelled to Moscow to collect a 2% interest loan of 212 million Soviet Rubles. Some of this money was allocated to build the centrally-planned economy, but much of the funding was used to fuel unification efforts in a war against South Korea between 1950 and 1953. After the end of the disastrous Korean War, the Soviet Union continued to help North Korea with the rebuilding of its cities, industry and infrastructure.

Even during the Sino-Soviet ideological split in the 1960s and 1970s, Moscow tried to curry favour with Pyongyang throughout its confrontation with Beijing. As a bastion of Communism in the Far East that directly faced US troops on the Korean peninsula, North Korea successfully managed to squeeze money from both of its allies during the Cold War. But when the iron curtain fell in the early 1990s, the Democrats in Moscow swiftly recognized Seoul and demanded the payment of debts from Pyongyang.

The timing could not have been worse for North Korea. Most of the country’s capital had been wasted on non-productive sectors, an oversized army, ideological campaigns and extravagant monuments. All that North Korea could offer to Russia as payment-in-kind was a humble list of export goods that did not exceed pickles, cigarettes and ginseng-based medicines. With the death of Kim Il-sung in 1994 and the beginning of natural disasters in 1995, North Korea’s agonising industrial and agricultural sectors collapsed, killing some 3 million people in three consecutive years of famine.

South Korea’s “Sunshine Policy” (1998-2008) and growing humanitarian aid from other regional neighbours permitted North Korea to weather the “Arduous March”; finally showing some signs of recovery in the early 2000s. It was around this time that Moscow once again raised the issue of North Korea’s debt, which had already been calculated at nearly US $8 billion. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chairman Kim Jong-il visited each other twice to discuss this and other bilateral issues, creating an impression that the debt would be written off rather than paid in full.

In August last year, at the last summit between the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and the Russian President Medvedev, the parties agreed to move forward on a proposal to build a pipeline that would be capable of transporting Russian natural gas to both Koreas. Simultaneously, North Korea and Russia signed a protocol calling for economic cooperation between the two countries. But international observers immediately questioned the feasibility of such a project in the midst of an ongoing inter-Korean conflict.

The oil markets of the last ten years have been favourable for Russia, allowing the country to save hundreds of billions of petro-dollars from the sale of energy-rich natural resources to its neighbours. Expecting an impoverished North Korea to pay off a Soviet-era debt, which today amounts to US $11 billion, would be unrealistic. Last week the Russian government agreed to discount 90 % of the debt owed by its destitute but stubborn ally. The remaining USD $1.1 billion was promised to be invested in joint Russian-North Korean projects, particularly in education, medical and energy sectors.

One may be surprised by the timing and generosity of the deal. Despite promises of a new era of strength and prosperity, this year saw the DPRK at odds with old evils. The coldest winter and the driest summer in decades have dashed its expectations for a proper harvest. The embarrassment of a faulty rocket launch in April was compounded by the withdrawal of US food-aid and international condemnation. The hyper-inflation of North Korean currency and the continuing energy crisis are not the propitious signs of effective governance by the newest leader in the Kim dynasty. Is Russia trying to help Kim Jong-un consolidate political power and overcome mounting economic difficulties?

This year Russia experienced the return of the Kremlin veteran, Vladimir Putin, to the presidential seat. Although he is associated with political reaction and is concerned by the prospect of “colour revolutions” at home, Russia is desperately running out of friends on the international stage. With Libya and Syria having already become victims of the “Arab Spring”, Moscow is scrambling to buttress dictatorial regimes in its vicinity. Anti-Americanism and curtailed political freedoms once again have become the primary criteria in gaining Kremlin sympathies. Belarus, Iran, the countries of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and now North Korea, have all received special treatment from the increasingly anti-Western Russia.

Whereas Beijing was once the only power that remained content to sink trillions of Yuan into North Korea simply to prop up a buffer state ruled by an anachronistic regime, Moscow is now returning to an East Asia policy that echoes of the Cold War. Instead of reprimanding Kim Jong-un for his provocative actions and belligerent rhetoric, Putin is dumping of trillions of tax-payers’ roubles into supporting a friendly dictator. Moscow’s empty promises to persuade North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program are in clear conflict with North Korea’s determination to remain a self-proclaimed nuclear power for the sake of its regime survival.

Northeast Asia is again becoming a theatre for large-scale geostrategic games where powerful empires scrum in a noxious struggle for domination, leaving 75 million Koreans in a state of anxious suspense.  Given the current situation, hopes for peace and reconciliation remain untenable.

See the Korean version of this article here… 모스크바는 김정은을 지지한다?





Russia and China on the North Korean plan to launch a rocket

17 03 2012

Russia urges North Korea to refrain from rocket launch

(Reuters 16 March 2012) Russia expressed serious concern on Friday over North Korea’s plan to launch a satellite and urged Pyongyang not to create hurdles to the revival of six-nation talks over its nuclear programme.

“The announcement about an upcoming launch of a satellite by (North Korea) causes serious concern,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We call on Pyongyang not to put itself in opposition to the international community, to refrain from actions that increase tension in the region and create additional complications for the relaunch of six-sided negotiations about the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula,” it said. The ministry also called for “maximum restraint from all sides”.

China has also voiced its concern over the DPRK’s satellite launch plan.

(Xinhua, 17 March 2012 ) Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun, in a meeting with the DPRK Ambassador to China Ji Jae Ryong on Friday, expressed China’s worry over the matter, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Zhang exchanged views with Ji on China-DPRK ties and the situation on the Korean Peninsula, said the statement.

Zhang said China had taken note of the DPRK’s satellite plan as well as the reaction from the international community. China believes it is the common obligation and in common interests of all parties concerned to maintain the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia, said the statement.

“We sincerely hope parties concerned stay calm and exercise restraint and avoid escalation of tension that may lead to a more complicated situation,” Zhang was quoted as saying.






Russia Expects N.Korea to Collapse by 2020

8 11 2011

(Chosun Ilbo, 04 Nov. 2011) The Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Russia’s foremost national policy think tank, takes the imminent collapse of the North Korean regime as a given in a special report published recently. IMEMO concludes that Korean reunification led by South Korea coincides with Russia’s national interests.

IMEMO spent years to prepare the report, which is part of the Russian government’s 20-year master plan and was published in September.

◆ The End of North Korea

The 480-page special report obtained by the Chosun Ilbo has five pages referring to the Korean Peninsula. It says the regime’s collapse is “accelerating” and that although reunification may not be fully achieved, the two Koreas will take “actual steps” toward reunification in the next two decades.

IMEMO believes the 2012-2020 transfer of power from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to his son Jong-un will trigger the collapse of the North. The leadership crisis will lead to a power struggle between “bureaucrats” with foreign business connections and “military and security officials” with no outside links, the report said.

Then over the following decade, a provisional North Korean government would be established under the aegis of the international community so that the North comes under South Korean control, while the North’s military will be disarmed and modernization get underway, the report forecast. IMEMO said the North Korean economy will gradually be absorbed into South Korea’s in the process and that around 1 million North Korean supporters of the old regime will flee to either China or Russia.

◆ South Korean-Led Reunification ‘Beneficial’

IMEMO said the emergence of a reunified Korea led by South Korea would have a “positive effect” on Russia’s position in the Asia-Pacific region. And with the situation on the Korean Peninsula stabilizing, Russia would “strengthen its diplomatic power in the Far East” and gain a “reliable partner,” it added.

This would create opportunities for Russian businesses and the government to participate in massive transport, energy and industrial projects and create new demand for Russian energy, timber, metal and petrochemical exports, as well as machinery.

A diplomatic source said, “It has been an established theory that Russia and other regional powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula favor the status quo rather than reunification, but here is a top Russian think tank publicly welcoming reunification led by South Korea.”

◆ Economic Growth

IMEMO forecast reunified Korea to see annual GDP growth of 3.5 percent before reunification (2011-2020), 2 percent during the process of reunification (early 2020s) and 5-6 percent in the final stage (late 2020s). The think tank projected that reunification would lay the groundwork for a new leap for the Korean economy.

Korea’s GDP, which stood at $1 trillion in 2010, would rise to $1.7 trillion by 2020 and $2.3 trillion by 2030, IMEMO projected. Reunified Korea would have a per-capita GDP of $30,000, and its population would stand at between 76 million and 77 million.

The economic development of reunified Korea would have a strong correlation with the formation of a “three-sided” system in the region that includes China and Japan, according to the report. This would boost trade with other regions. By the early 2020s, North Korea’s rapid economic development would lead to a trade deficit, but reunified Korea would be able to achiev