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

North Korea: Witness to Transformation | More on the Pipeline

22 09 2011

(by Stephan Haggard | September 20th, 2011 )

No sooner had we posted a skeptical note on the political economy of pipelines than we appeared to be undercut by the flow of events. President Lee Myung Bak said that the pipeline project could move forward at a faster-than-expected pace.

On a single day—September 15– Alexey Miller, chairman of Gazprom’s management committee, hosted separate meetings with both Choo Kangsoo, CEO of South Korea’s Kogas, and Kim Hui Yong, the DPRK’s Oil Industry Minister. Miller signed an “MOU” with the North Koreans and a “Roadmap” on the project with the South Koreans. The Korea Herald reports speculation that Seoul and Moscow seek to make progress by November when Lee and Medvedev will meet at the G20 summit in Cannes on Nov. 3-4, the APEC summit in Hawaii on Nov. 12-13 and the East Asia Summit in Bali on Nov. 18-19.

Is this thing going to happen? Not so fast. The little details that are leaking out actually confirm a number of our doubts and concerns:

  • There is one report that at the August summit, Kim Jong Il was seeking as much as $500 million a year in transit fees from the pipeline deal. So we did a little back-of-the-envelope calculation. The project anticipates pumping 10 billion cubic feet of gas a year when completed. Current prices are about $145 per thousand cubic feet. In short, Dear Leader wants $500 million transit fees on $1.45 billion worth of gas. As the report deadpans, this was about five times what the Russians had expected.
  • It appears that the transit fee issue was ultimately linked to debt relief. The Soviets/Russians had extended about $11 billion to the North Koreans; needless to say, it has not been serviced. In parallel negotiations resumed in June, the Russians recently agreed to write off 90 percent of the debt, investing the remainder in “joint business projects to be launched in the North down the road.” This may be good for the pipeline project, but shows that the Russians are doubling down on the Kim Jong Il regime, as my colleague Marc Noland also noted in an earlier post.
  • But perhaps most interesting are the terms that the South Koreans are seeking in order to mitigate the risk associated with the project. Recall that the Russians are already shipping LNG to the South and will have an expanded ability to do so with the recent completion of the Sakhalin-Khabarovsk-Vladivostok gas transmission system, albeit at higher cost. The South Koreans are building an LNG storage site at Samcheok, Gangwon Province. According to none other than Hong Joon Pyo, chair of the ruling Grand National Party, South Korea is insisting that the Russians take responsibility for building and maintaining the pipeline. Moreover, they want guarantees that if North Korea turns off the spigot, then the Russians would provide the gas by sea at a 30% discount.

Russia has a strong interest in expanding its Asian sales ever since the Sakhalin-2 project went online in the Pacific in 2009. Most of the Sakhalin-2 gas goes to Japan and South Korea is a natural market. The pipeline is a win-win for all parties. But the fact that the GNP has gone soft on the project should give the Russians pause. How much are the Russians willing to pay for it, politically, economically and in terms of risk?

In a must-read post on 38 North Georgy Toloraya suggests that the answer may be “a lot.” Toloraya argues that Russia is looking East and North Korea is seen as a strategic entry point where the Russians can make their presence felt. This does not strike us a promising strategy to say the least. But the evidence is mounting that Moscow is pursuing it. If the Russians are willing to absorb the risk, Hong Joon Pyo may well be right: why should South Korea object? Let the Russians handle the North Koreans. Good luck.


Kim Jong-il celebrates successful visit to Russia and China

30 08 2011

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attended a banquet to congratulate him on his successful recent visits to Russia and China, the North’s state media said Monday.  The banquet was hosted by his son, Kim Jong-eun, on behalf of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party and the National Defense Commission.

Radio Free Asia has asked me to share opinion on the following issues:

RFA: Why do you think Kim Jong-il made a stopover at China?

LP: On his way back from Russia, Kim Jong-il spent a night in the northeastern city of Hulunbeier, China’s Inner Mongolia, after arriving from the eastern Siberian city of Ulan-Ude. Then Kim Jong Il visited northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province on Friday at the company of Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo.

In a meeting with Kim, Dai, conveyed sincere greetings from President Hu Jintao to Kim and welcomed Kim on behalf of the CPC, the Chinese government and people. Kim thanked China’s warm hospitality and conveyedhis sincere greetings to Hu. Dai said that after an interval of three months, Kim visited China again that fully demonstrated the high attention attached by Kim to the consolidation and growth of China-DPRK ties. “Along with DPRK comrades, we are willing to earnestlyimplement important consensus reached by the top leaders of our two countries andpromote the continuous growth of our ties,” Dai said.

Kim said China and DPRK are close neighbors and should have frequent contacts. “Every time I visited China, I can feel the friendly affections from the Chinese people tothe Korean people,” he said. He spoke highly of the development momentum of current China-DPRK ties. Bilateralexchanges and cooperation should be enhanced between different departments andlocalities of the two countries in various areas, he said. During his stay in Heilongjiang, Kim visited the cities of Qiqihar and Daqing. In Qiqihar, Kim toured Qier Machine Tool Group Co., a large state-owned enterprise, and Mengniu Dairy, a leading Chinese dairy producer. In Daqing, he toured an urban planningexhibition hall and a residential district. “I’ve seen new changes every time I came here,” Kim Jong-il said. He wished that China would smoothly realize the goals set in its 12th Five-year Plan under the leadership of the CPC.

RFA: Also why he didn’t bring his son, Kim Jong-eun?

LP: North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s heir apparent son, Kim Jong-eun, was on standby during his father’s trip to Russia and China because the joint ROK-US military drill Ulchi Freedom Guardian was continuing on the peninsula. The joint training of 56 thousand South Korean and 30 thousand US American troops kept North Korean leadership alerted. Since Kim Jong-eun is the Vice-chair of the KWP Military Committee, his presence in the country was symbolically important during the absence of his father, the Chairman of National Defence Committee, and Kim Yong-Chun, Minister of the People’s Armed Forces.

RFA: How do you view the impact of  Kim’s summit with Russian President Medvedev?

LP: The rare summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev became a very important step toward resuming the long-stalled nuclear disarmament talks with the North. Russia and North Korea also moved forward on a proposal to build a pipeline that will ship Russian natural gas to both Koreas. Simultaneously, North Korea and Russia signed a protocol calling for economic cooperation between the two countries. Last Friday, a Russian economic delegation, led by Minister of Regional Development Viktor Basargin, was in North Korea to sign “a protocol of the 5th Meeting of the DPRK-Russia Intergovernmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade, Economy, Science and Technology,”

La Corée du Nord tenterait d’assouplir son image sur le dossier nucléaire pour obtenir une aide économique

29 08 2011

(Philippe Pons, Le Monde 28/08/2011) A la suite de sa visite en Sibérie, le dirigeant nord-coréen Kim Jong-il est passé, jeudi 25 août, en Chine du Nord-Est à bord de son train blindé. Selon l’agence Chine nouvelle, il doit faire dans cette région une « escale » sur le « chemin du retour ». Il n’a pas été précisé s’il aura des entretiens avec des dirigeants chinois.

Plusieurs projets de développement économiques conjoints entre la Chine et la République populaire démocratique de Corée (RPDC) sont en cours dans la région frontalière. C’est la quatrième visite en un an de Kim Jong-il en Chine.

D’éventuels entretiens avec les dirigeants chinois pourraient néanmoins apporter des éclaircissements sur les déclarations de Kim Jong-il en Russie. Selon la porte-parole du président Medvedev, celui-ci s’est déclaré prêt à une reprise sans conditions des pourparlers à six (Chine, deux Corées, Etats-Unis, Japon et Russie) sur la dénucléarisation de la RPDC et a proposé un moratoire sur les essais de missiles et les tests atomiques. […]

Une proposition trop vague

Selon Paik Haksoon, chercheur à l’Institut Sejong de Séoul, « le moratoire proposé par Pyongyang n’est pas le moratoire demandé par Séoul, Tokyo ou Washington comme préalable à une reprise des pourparlers, mais un élément de la négociation elle-même. Il n’en ouvre pas moins une fenêtre dans le processus de reprise de celle-ci ».

L’agence nord-coréenne de presse, KCNA, n’a pas mentionné la proposition de moratoire. Mais « le fait qu’elle a été annoncée au président Medvedev accroît sa crédibilité », estime Leonid Petrov, spécialiste de la RPDC à l’Université de Sydney. Séoul et Washington estiment que la proposition nord-coréenne est trop vague pour constituer « un progrès substantiel ». La question nucléaire nord-coréenne s’est encore compliquée depuis que le régime a annoncé, à la fin de l’année dernière, s’être doté, en plus de sa filière à base de plutonium, d’un programme d’enrichissement de l’uranium.

La Corée du Sud et les Etats-Unis craignent que Pyongyang ne veuille reprendre les négociations que pour obtenir une aide économique, dont le régime a impérieusement besoin. Kim Jong-il a promis qu’en 2012 – année du centième anniversaire de la naissance de son père, Kim Il-sung (mort en 1994) -, la RPDC entrera dans une nouvelle ère : celle d’un « pays fort et prospère ».

N. Korea Pledges Return to Nuke Talks

26 08 2011

 (Russia Today TV 24 Aug. 2011) North Korea is ready to return to the Six-Party negotiation table unconditionally and to do so, Kim Jong-il promised his country will impose moratorium on nuclear testing and nuclear weapons production. Presidential Press Secretary Natalia Timakova announced these results of the meeting on Wednesday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his North Korean counterpart have met in the secluded military compound Sosnovy Bor (Pine Wood) on the outskirts of the capital of Republic of Buryatia, Ulan-Ude. The talks lasted for two hours and ten minutes.The leaders shook hands for protocol photos in the presence of press, then proceeded to negotiate behind closed doors. Few results were announced once the negotiations were over, including little information about the topics of discussion.

Surely, tense topics have been discussed during the meeting. Most likely the talks were focused on Six-Party Talks: North Korea withdrew from the Six-Party Talks (which include North and South Koreas, Russia, China, US and Japan) and continued with its nuclear experiments, defiant in its continuation of its nuclear program, predictably causing outrage not only within the Six Parties, but the whole of the international community.

The leaders reportedly agreed also to work together on a trilateral gas-supply project involving South Korea. President Medvedev announced he has set up a governmental committee which is to deal with this gas pipe-line transit project. He also assigned Alexey Miller, the head of Russia’s Gazprom, to “closely deal” with his counterparts in North and South Korea. The gas transit through the territory of DPRK is a very perspective project for the South Korean consumers, and for North Korea as well, Dmitry Medvedev stated after his meeting with Kim Jong-il. The project plans to cover an estimated 1,100 kilometers of pipelines and will have a capacity of 10 billion cubic meters of gas a year. […]

­Eric Sirotkin, a co-founder of the National Campaign to End the Korean War, says Russia is in the perfect position to play a mediator role between North and South Korea. “Because of [Russia’s] closer relationship with the United States over the past years, because of the fact they are not seen as allied with North Korea as China,” he said. “Someone has to, as a world leader, stand up and say ‘This war has gone on for 60 years. There has been a change. The Cold War has ended, folks.’”

The fact that after nearly 10 years the leader of reclusive North Korea visits Russia and meets President Medvedev can only mean that something is changing – either inside North Korea or in Russia’s relation with it, considers Leonid Petrov, a lecturer in Korean Studies at the University of Sydney. The problem now is that North Korea has expressed a readiness to return to negotiating table and exchange something – probably its nuclear program – for some sort of aid, whereas the other parties of the Six-Side talks are reluctant to do so. “Probably it is time to restore balance between North Korea’s relations with Russia and China,” Petrov believes. In any case, “for Kim-Jong-il this is a good PR exercise to make sure that people still believe him,” Petrov said.

Russia Emerging From the Cold

11 02 2011

By Sunny Lee (Asia Times On-line, 11 Feb, 2011)

BEIJING – With the United Nations Security Council scheduled to meet on February 23 to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue, including recent revelations of its uranium-enrichment program, Washington and its allies in Seoul and Tokyo are increasingly placing their hopes on China, oops! rather, Russia.

That’s an unusual development in the 20-year saga of North Korea’s nuclear program, as Russia has been largely “invisible” in the six-country consortium that heads international efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

During previous rounds of the six-party talks in Beijing – they were last held more than two years ago – international media outlets, even though hungry for scoops, spared their journalists from going to the Russian delegation, reflecting the former “empire’s” limited influence in regional security affairs and in particular its greatly reduced clout over Pyongyang. Furthermore, China has replaced Russia as the main Cold War benefactor of Pyongyang.

Yet, China pretends it doesn’t have influence on North Korea, while Russia pretends it has. The reality is the opposite. As one Chinese scholar put it, “We Chinese say we don’t have influence on North Korea. We say North Korea is a sovereign state and it makes its own decisions. But everybody knows that we have the influence.”

Leonid Petrov, a Russian expert on Korean affairs at the University of Sydney, says, “Russia lost its leverage on North Korea in 1991 when the Soviet empire collapsed”.

During the Cold War, Moscow was Pyongyang’s guardian in its “struggle against American imperialism”. Soviet records confirm that current North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was born in the village of Vyatskoye, near Khabarovsk, in Russia in 1941. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the cash-stripped Russian government demanded that Pyongyang pay back in hard currency the money it owed the Kremlin, which soured the Russo-North Korea relationship.

Russian interest as well as influence in North Korea steadily declined in the 1990s, especially after Moscow established diplomatic ties with Pyongyang’s rival, Seoul, making North Korea feel betrayed. The relationship was partly restored in 2000 when Vladimir Putin, the current premier who was then president, visited North Korea, the first trip of its kind by a top Russian leader.

That, however, does not mean today’s relationship is back to where it was. “The two countries used to be allies, but now they are neither friends nor foes,” said Yoichi Funabashi, a Japanese security expert on East Asia in his book The Peninsula Question. During the Cold War, Russia and China competed fiercely for leverage over the North, now China has gained the ascendency…

…”Russia is noticing the chasm between Washington and Beijing and seeing its own chance to enhance its international leverage,” said Lee Sang-soo at the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm.

While Russia supported China’s call for the resumption of the six-party talks, unlike China, Moscow condemned North Korea following the shelling of the island of Yeonpyeong. “In many ways, Russia’s views on global affairs are different from China’s,” said Zhang Liangui, a professor of international strategic research at the Party School of the China Communist Party Central Committee in Beijing.

At the UN Security Council meeting later this month, Washington is expected to push for a statement of condemnation on North Korea’s uranium-enrichment program, while China is likely to block the effort. It will instead seek to restart the six-party talks first. When Washington and Beijing are at odds, Russia’s role is crucial, and it could use its veto powers.

“Russia will support the US move,” said Zhang in Beijing, adding that Russia believed North Korea’s nuclear program was a threat. Petrov, the Russian scholar in Australia said, “Russia also firmly supports nuclear non-proliferation [more so than China.]”

According to Zhang, North Korea’s nuclear program is more dangerous than Iran’s. “It’s a more serious issue. Iran has not conducted nuclear testing. So, its claim [that its program is] for peaceful purposes for nuclear power has merit. But North Korea is different. It has already conducted nuclear testing, twice. So, its claim that its nuclear use is for peaceful purposes doesn’t hold ground.”

With Russia’s role “once lost, but now found”, it is no wonder that recently there have been increased flights to Moscow by envoys from concerned countries, in addition to visits to Beijing.

So, it is more than coincidence, for example, that South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, Wi Sung-lak, is visiting Beijing on Thursday, while Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara is visiting Moscow on the same day. This comes on the heels of US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg’s Asian swing just two weeks ago. “Washington and its allies will increasingly turn to using the Russian card,” said Zhang in Beijing.

See the full text of the article here…