It can be said that North Korea has moved to bring Russia to its side for the purpose of turning denuclearization talks with the United States to its advantage. The international community should maintain the pressure of economic sanctions until North Korea embarks on complete denuclearization.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, has visited Vladivostok in the Russian Far East and held his first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The two leaders emphasized the strengthening of traditional friendly relations. They are said to have also exchanged views on the North Korean nuclear issue and relations with the United States.
It is an alarming development that moves have emerged to complicate the denuclearization process hitherto pursued by Washington and Pyongyang.
At a press conference held after the summit, Putin disclosed that North Korea had called for guaranteeing security for the regime in return for denuclearization. Referring to the six-nation talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program, Putin pointed to the possibility of such talks being resumed in the future.
Moscow said it will convey the content of the Putin-Kim summit to Washington and Beijing. Russia undoubtedly has an ulterior motive of enhancing its influence on the North Korean nuclear issue.
The six-party talks — involving Japan, the United States, China, South Korea and Russia plus North Korea — started in 2003 and adopted a joint statement in September 2005 mentioning the denuclearization of North Korea. But North Korea refused to comply with a request for complete reporting on its nuclear program, and this led to the breakdown of the talks in 2008.
Only 1 road for Kim
The participation of China and Russia in the negotiations would make it difficult to hammer out an agreement on the North Korean nuclear issue.
The process aimed at working out an accord on the North’s denuclearization through Washington-Pyongyang talks should not be shaken.
It is problematic that Pyongyang has not agreed to hold working-level talks with Washington while engaging only in diplomatic maneuvers. It has even demanded that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from the U.S. negotiating team. This apparently underscores its strategy of drawing concessions through direct talks with President Donald Trump.
While complaining that the United States “sticks to economic sanctions,” Kim has been fretting about maintaining good relations with Trump.
If Kim really wants to realize the lifting of economic sanctions and the advancement of economic development, he should be aware that complete denuclearization is the only road leading to that goal. The first step that should be taken by Pyongyang after all will be to report the nuclear program in its entirety and draw up a road map for verifiable nuclear abolition.
Caution needs to be taken about North Korea’s moves to seek relaxation of sanctions by gaining the support of Russia and China even while keeping its nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles.
A U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution calls for all North Korean workers in Russia to be sent home within this year. About 10,000 such workers have been serving as a means of earning foreign currency for the North.
Russia should faithfully carry out the resolution by repatriating the North Korean workers so as not to allow a loophole to ease the pressure of sanctions.