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Sergey Luzyanin

Director of RAS Institute for Far Eastern Studies, RIAC member

The regional security problem in Northeast Asia has several aspects. First, the US seeks to use the Korean crisis for exerting pressure on China. In his statements Donald Trump repeatedly emphasizes that Beijing “must” resolve the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula for the benefit of the US. The sanction-type measures are being imposed on Chinese companies for their trade with the DPRK.

The second aspect is connected with deployment of the ABM THAAD elements on the Korean Peninsula: while it is described formally as the ABM defense, in the regional context such actions not so much reduce but rather increase tensions. The presence of the ABM tempts North Korea to strike first and to try to evade a retaliation blow. Thus South Korea happened to be involved in the US–North Korean confrontation.

The probability that the North Korean problem would be resolved by force has grown. Through its chief executives, the US leadership clearly voices its position, which “does not exclude” the force-based options. The Trump Administration has admitted that the “strategic patience” policy designed to suffocate North Korea by sanctions quietly, proved ineffective.  

Third, the further development of the North Korean nuclear program, too, poses a certain threat to stability. Aimed at destruction of the non-proliferation regime and consistent neglect of the UN Security Council resolutions, the DPRK actions, do disturb the regional balance of forces and create uncertainty in the security sphere. Therefore, Russia and China as permanent members of the Security Council cannot but declaim against such activities, although they informally understand the motivations of the North Korean leaders. Each new action of the DPRK requires a response reaction of the global community represented by the UN SC, while the sanction pressure, which exhausted its potential, threatens to grow into the throughout economic blockade that would hit first and foremost the DPRK population.  

Any serious military conflict on the Korean Peninsula cannot but affect Russia’s interests – at least because even in the mildest option the Russian Far East would be constrained to spend a considerable part of efforts and resources to counter the broad spectrum of different threats ranging from the refugee influx through to the consequences of an ecological disaster that might be caused by destruction of nuclear facilities in the North and South Korea.

What is evident at the same time, the DPRK would hardly give up nuclear weapons as long as it feels a direct security threat seen by North Koreans in the regular broad-scale exercises conducted in the region by the US and its allies as well as in the US naval squadron dispatched to the Korean coast this month.

The sanctions may not be applied either for economic suffocation of the DPRK or for worsening of its humanitarian situation. In the emerging conditions all concerned parties should take the cold-blood and reserved approach and not to undertake steps that might lead to escalation of tensions. The force-based options are absolutely inacceptable as they might bring catastrophic implications both for the Korean Peninsula and entire Northeast Asian region, The choice must be made in favor of the maximal activation of diplomatic instruments.

It is important to approach to settlement of the situation in the context of the whole set of problems existing among the parties and thus to create conditions for the DPRK denuclearization. This cannot be done without normalizing the general military-political situation, giving up the military infrastructure buildup, down-scaling the conducted exercises and building the atmosphere of interstate confidence in the region. As evidenced by the recent events, the regional situation may not be left unattended in whatever the case, because, as the proverb says, “a bad compromise is better than a good lawsuit”. In this respect the RF and PRC, both within the proposed “roadmap” and other formats, are ready to cooperate more closely with all partners for the soonest possible settlement of the nuclear and other problems of the Korean Peninsula by the only possible politico-diplomatic means, through the mutually respectful dialogue and mutual consideration of interests and concerns.

Source: Valdai Club

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