By J.V. Lakshmana Rao
The keenly awaited outcome of first-ever summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian Pacific island port city of Vladivostok on April 25 has not made any difference to Kim. North Korea has not got any relief from the UN imposed US sanctions.
Kim has sought the summit with Putin with a view to building up foreign support after breakdown of the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi on February 28.
The widely publicized talks at the second summit between Kim and Trump in Hanoi ended with Trump dropping them abruptly as he made it clear that no progress would be made in the relief of sanctions unless Kim completes the denuclearization of North Korea, open its N-facilities for inspection and surrenders all nuclear arsenal.
Obviously Putin and Kim have discussed the issue of denuclearization and related lifting of sanctions. Therefore, Putin is keen on Kim completing the denuclearization, which will ultimately pave the way for the US lifting the sanctions.
Though China is considered as North Korea’s closest ally, Kim has sought summit with Putin, because Kim thinks that influential Putin has an easy access to Trump. But the summit has provided an opportunity for Putin to stress the importance of peace in the Korean Peninsula, and denuclearization of North Korea is vital for the improvement of trade in the region.
After the summit with Kim, Putin has said that he would convey the details of their talks to Trump. But Putin also felt that there has been nothing new that has been offered by Kim to convince Trump to deviate from his stand to accept Kim’s demand. Putin has emphasized that he and Trump would want Kim to abandon his nuclear weapons.
Russia, South Korea and Japan are also keen on Kim acting towards the denuclearization, stopping of nuclear activity, and closing of nuclear missile testing facilities. Ever since the first Kim-Trump summit in Singapore, there have been indications of improved relations between North Korea and South Korea. This has also been possible because of the US putting a stop to joint defense exercises in the Korean Peninsula. There is no denial that North Korea has slowed down the long as well as short range missile testing, which otherwise has been keeping Japan on constant alert because of geographical proximity between the two countries.
Russia also has its trade interest in the region. Lifting of trade sanctions against North Korea would help trade between Russia and North Korea, and via North Korea to South Korea. Several North Korean migrant laborers are working on the Russian border and abolition of sanctions would benefit both the countries.
Russia is looking for border access to North Korean mineral resources, including some rare metals. Similarly, North Korea is seeking access to Russian electricity supplies and Russian investment in North Korean infrastructure activities. North Korea is desperate to modernize country’s Soviet-built industrial plants and railways.
Kim argues that the US must begin lifting of sanctions even partially, because, North Korea has already initiated denuclearization process by closing down some facilities.
But North Korea’s official news agency KCNA has very recently reported that Pyongyang tested an unspecified “guided weapon” with a “powerful warhead,” and Kim has overseen the operation.
Obviously Trump has very little faith in Kim’s assertion of positively responding to the US demands, because some satellite images show and intelligence reports say nuclear-related activities still continue at old and new locations. For lifting the sanctions, Trump wants complete closure of nuclear facilities and related activities, dismantling and surrender of nuclear devices and opening inspection of nuclear sites by UN appointed inspectors.
With all these developments, Kim reportedly said it was up to the US to “come up with a courageous decision.” But, he said, the country had to make up its mind by the end of this year. It is also reported that Kim is open to a third summit with Trump.
By J.V. Lakshmana Rao