What does North Korea want from Russia and what does Russia want from North Korea?

Read few comments.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their talks in Vladivostok. Credit: http://kremlin.ru/










Benjamin HabibLecturer in Politics & International Relations,, La Trobe University

My feeling is that the mutual interest revolves around infrastructure linkages and economic projects around the Tumen River area. Proposals for rail connections and oil/gas pipelines from Russia, through North Korea to South Korea date back to the early 1990s, but which have not been viable due to the nuclear standoff. The explicit mention of infrastructure links in inter-Korean summits last year puts these projects realistically on the table.

Additionally, if momentum for these projects takes off then it adds pressure on the US to make accommodations to North Korea in their negotiation process. Any accommodations that Washington makes to the DPRK will be interpreted as a strategic win in Moscow and Beijing.

Ronald HuiskenSenior Fellow, Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University

I don’t have any particular insights on this facet of the DPRK issue so I necessarily start with the historical trends and attitudes and assume that they still echo into the present day. The USSR was the DPRK’s primary partner in the early days but Krushchev spoilt the party by identifying Kim as a poor Socialist (fostering a personality cult, exaggerating a continuing threat from the US to justify  a uniquely repressive domestic arrangements and disproportionately large armed forces) and attempting to remove him. All of this played out against decades of USSR-China antagonism – which provided sufficient leeway for the Kims to basically chart their own course. Since the break-up of the USSR and China’s rapid rise, Russia and China have taken considerable care to ensure that these old animosities were contained in the interests of the common prize – the unravelling of the US-led world order. Kim Jong-un is likely to have inherited the family hesitations about both China and Russia, but knows that this means it is best to keep them both in play. He is also casting about for a face-saving means of re-engaging with President Trump. The DPRK did little to prepare for the Hanoi summit but this was disguised because the US was similarly hoping for the best. Meeting with Putin ticks several boxes for Kim– it looks statesmanlike and signals Washington that the DPRK was not unsettled by the events in Hanoi but is moving forward on its own agenda, and it signals (although not very strongly) that the DPRK is not being manipulated by China. The most interesting aspect of this revival of the Russia-DPRK link is how closely aligned Moscow and Beijing may be on the preferred outcome in respect of the Korean peninsula and the best way of achieving it.

Tong ZhaoFellowCarnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy

DPRK wants substantive economic and diplomatic assistance from Russia. DPRK probably has calculated that because the Russian-US relationship is at a historical low and the US is already treating Russia as a main rival, Russia might feel less to lose and be more willing to help DPRK’s economy than China or South Korea does.

Russia wants to maintain its geopolitical influence in the Northeast Asia region and to obtain a more formal seat at the diplomatic table so that Russian interests and voices would be heard and respected when the main players conduct negotiations about the future security structure over the Korea peninsula.

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