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Andrey Kortunov

Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member

“The Kremlin really believes the North Korean leadership should get additional assurances and confidence that the United States is not in the regime change business,” Andrey Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council, a think-tank close to the Russian Foreign Ministry, told Reuters.

“The Kremlin really believes the North Korean leadership should get additional assurances and confidence that the United States is not in the regime change business,” Andrey Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council, a think-tank close to the Russian Foreign Ministry, told Reuters.

“The prospect of regime change is a serious concern. The Kremlin understands that (U.S. President Donald) Trump is unpredictable. They felt more secure with Barack Obama that he would not take any action that would explode the situation, but with Trump they don’t know.”

Kortunov, the think-tank chief close to the Russian Foreign Ministry, said he did not think the Kremlin’s defense of Kim Jong Un was based on any personal affection or support for North Korea’s leadership, likening Moscow’s pragmatic backing to that it has given Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

Moscow’s position was motivated by a belief the status quo made Russia a powerful geopolitical player in the crisis because of its close ties to Pyongyang, Kortunov said, just as Russia’s support for Assad has gifted it greater Middle East clout.

He said Moscow knew it would lose regional leverage if Kim Jong Un fell, much as its Middle East influence was threatened when Islamist militants looked like they might overthrow Assad in 2015.

“It’s a very delicate balancing act,” said Kortunov.

“On the one hand, Russia doesn’t want to deviate from the line of its partners and mostly from China’s position on North Korea which is getting tougher. But on the other hand, politicians in Moscow understand that the current situation and level of interaction between Moscow and Pyongyang puts Russia in a league of its own compared to China.”

If the United States were to remove Kim Jong Un by force, he said Russia could face a refugee and humanitarian crisis on its border, while the weapons and technology Pyongyang is developing could fall into even more dangerous non-state hands.

Source: Reuters

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