New motivation from Russia-DPRK Summit

Friday, 2019-04-26 18:08:15
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Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and DPRK Chairman Kim Jong Un shakes hands during their talks at Far East Federal University on Russky Island in Vladivostok, Russia, April 25, 2019. (Reuters)
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NDO – The meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chairman of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un in the Russian city of Vladivostok is expected to provide new motivation for bilateral cooperation and for the peace process on the Korean Peninsula. It is also an opportunity for the two countries to affirm their national position, in the context of the DPRK accelerating its international integration and Russia strengthening its involvement in global efforts.

The Russia-DPRK Summit was held during the first Russian tour of DPRK Chairman Kim Jong Un and also the first bilateral high-level activity between the two countries in the past eight years. The DPRK economy is currently facing many difficulties due to US sanctions, while the process of resolving the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula remains stagnant. The Russia visit drew special attention from the international public as it took place in the aforementioned context and soon after Kim Jong Un was re-elected as the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission, the DPRK’s highest decision-making body.

However, a Russia-DPRK summit and an official visit to Russia by the leader of the Pyongyang administration at the moment are not something so surprising. Russia and the DPRK have traditional friendly relations and cooperation in many fields, and the two sides maintain regular meetings. Russia is a partner in the six-party talks on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, and has been actively involved in and contributed to the joint effort. Therefore, the Russia trip made by DPRK Chairman Kim Jong Un and the summit between the two countries have stemmed from the needs of both sides. The events are expected to create “new vitality” for their bilateral cooperation and blow a “new breeze” into the efforts to resolve the currently stagnant Korean nuclear issue.

Promoting bilateral relations, especially economic cooperation, and coordinating in the peace efforts on the Korean Peninsula were the two main topics of the Russia-DPRK Summit in Vladivostok. These are also the goals that both sides are aiming toward in the upcoming phase of cooperation.

Recently, Russia has been actively shifting its strategy towards the East, especially towards its Northeast Asian partners. As a neighbouring country, separated from Russia’s Far East by a river, the DPRK plays an important factor in Moscow’s “Look East” policy, and can become a bridge helping Russia to expand its economic cooperation with Asia. Moscow is interested in inter-Korean projects in terms of transport and energy infrastructure and the proposal to connect gas pipelines from Russia to the Korean Peninsula. The visit of the DPRK leader offered a good chance for the two countries to find ways to boost economic relations, with the goal of raising bilateral trade far beyond the current level of US$40 million per year.

As a party in the multilateral negotiation process on the Korean nuclear issue, Russia supports dialogue and has repeatedly called on the international community to partially lift its economic sanctions against Pyongyang. In fact, the DPRK can be regarded as Russia’s “strategic shield” in the Far East, and the Korean Peninsula situation has an important impact on Russia’s national security. An appropriate involvement in the Korean issue can help Russia improve its influence in the region. The first Russia-DPRK Summit is an opportunity for Russia to affirm its interest as well as clearly demonstrate its role and contribution to regional peace and stability.

As for the DPRK, Russia is an important economic partner and one of the key humanitarian aid providers in the context of Pyongyang resisting against international sanctions. Enhanced economic cooperation with Russia will help the DPRK to have more key economic partners, as well as more resources to overcome the difficult period caused by sanctions at present. In terms of the nuclear issue, Russia’s strengthened role and efforts could increase hopes for breakthroughs in the dialogue process on the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

A new motivation is expected from the inaugural Russia-DPRK high-level event, not only lifting bilateral relations to new heights but also providing a “catalyst” contributing to removing bottlenecks in the process of resolving the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, one of the “security hotspots” in the Asia-Pacific region.