Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: breaking the vicious circle

Submitted on Tue, 02/20/2018 - 11:29

Article by Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the EU Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov published in The European - Security and Defence Union magazine, February 2018 

The Korean Peninsula’s nuclear problem remains a major and ever-growing challenge to security in Northeast Asia and beyond. Russia has consistently condemned Pyongyang’s nuclear tests as being in violation of international law and has supported all UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions imposing sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Pyongyang’s aspiration to gain nuclear power status is unacceptable.

Growing concerns

The test missile launches that Pyongyang claims are now capable of reaching US mainland territory are extremely risky, a matter of grave concern and a direct threat to stability. That being said, to look at this issue by placing all responsibility solely on North Korea would be a gross simplification which could prevent us from developing adequate and realistic solutions.

General context

While it is clear that DPRK’s behaviour is irresponsible and highly provocative, a serious analysis of the root causes of the current tensions cannot disregard the behaviour of other important international actors. Whether it is the heavy US military presence in the region, the efforts to establish a fullscale political and economic blockade of North Korea, or the permanent military exercises on and around the Peninsula, these are perceived by Pyongyang as a direct existential threat.  Continuing along this course cannot pave the way to a settlement. The outcome of such short-sighted policies is the opposite – antagonisation of North Korea. A recent series of unscheduled military drills held by the US and its allies in the region has led to further escalation of tension. One might be under the impression that Washington is deliberately provoking Pyongyang to act recklessly in order to gain a pretext for an attack against the DPRK.

Another destabilising factor is the deployment of American anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems in South Korea and Japan, an element of the ongoing unilateral development of the US global missile defence system.

The Russian-Chinese roadmap

The situation around the Korean Peninsula can be characterised by the following formula: provocation, a UNSC resolution and sanctions, then more provocation, etc. It is clear that the pressure of sanctions alone, the potential of which has by now been depleted, has not produced the desired result. Pressure  can only be effective if backed by diplomacy. The need for political efforts in this regard is stipulated in all relevant UNSC Resolutions.

Going forward with this vision, Russia and China have come up with a “roadmap” based on concrete proposals.

At the first stage: Pyongyang should refrain from carrying out new tests, while the United States and South Korea should stop, or at least reduce, the scale of joint military exercises near the borders of the DPRK.

At the second stage: the “roadmap” provides for the adoption of bilateral agreements on the general principles of relations between the DPRK, the US and South Korea.

At the third stage: negotiations on a proper security system in Northeast Asia are launched.

Show restraint and avoid provocative actions

To create conditions for the reopening of dialogue, it is necessary for all stakeholders to show restraint and avoid provocative actions and aggressive rhetoric. This applies equally to Pyongyang, Washington and its regional allies. Military escalation on the Korean Peninsula would lead to a catastrophe. Russia has always stressed the need to implement not only the sanctions but also the equally binding political provisions of all relevant UNSC Resolutions. Our “roadmap” is on the table and we call upon all interested parties to support it. In the end, there is no alternative to diplomacy if we are to achieve the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.