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Russia-North Korea military deal, a threat like no other

by Adrian David

PYONGYANG: The United States is possibly facing its greatest threat, since the 1950-53 Korean War, following the Russia-North Korea summit.

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C.’s senior vice president for Asia and Korea Chair, Dr Victor Cha wrote in his analysis that the high-level meeting between Russian president Vladimir Putin and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un presented the greatest threat to not only the US’s national security but also undermined that of Europe and Asia.

Cha warned that the Russian-North Korean relationship was deep in history and reinvigorated by the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

“Amid front-burner issues like the wars in Ukraine and (Israel’s conflict in) Gaza, the administration relegates this problem to the back burner at its own peril,” said Cha, who served as director for Asian affairs with the US National Security Council and as its deputy head of delegation for the Six Party talks involving China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea and the US.

Cha, who is also a distinguished professor at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., observed that what started out as a small arms sale by North Korea to the Wagner Group in November 2022 had recently been acknowledged by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as a “matter of deep concern” over the North’s provision of 5 million rounds of ammunition and scores of ballistic missiles.

“As the summit suggested, Kim is likely to fuel Russian war stocks indefinitely. Of pressing concern, however, is what Putin is giving in return.

“It is highly unlikely that Kim would have feted Putin so lavishly only for the promise of food and fuel.

“That may have been the gift when Kim visited Russia in September 2023, direly needed at the time as his country was just emerging from a three-plus year Covid lockdown,” said Cha.

News reports cited the summit discussed on Russia and North Korea developing military-technical cooperation and in the fields of healthcare, medical education and science.

Cha noted that US National Intelligence director Avril Haines had laid down a significant marker last March when she said Moscow might be dropping long-held non-proliferation norms in its dealings with North Korea.

“Kim wants advanced telemetry, nuclear submarine technology, military satellite wares, and advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology.

“Putin needs Kim’s weapons to make up for a monthly amunitions shortfall of 50,000 rounds (even if Russia is producing ammunition at full capacity) in his pursuit of victory in Ukraine.

“A gaggle of Russian scientists were in North Korea prior to this month’s military satellite launch. Kim has also been expressing satisfaction with his nuclear submarine plans, which is a very bad sign.

“This aspect of the relationship not only destabilises security on the peninsula and in Asia; it also heightens the direct threat posed by North Korea to the US,” penned Cha.

He added that ICBMs with advanced countermeasure technology, overhead reconnaissance capabilities, and nuclear submarines would allow Kim to target the entirety of the US with a nuclear force that Washington would have difficulty taking out in a pre-emptive first-strike.

“In fairness, US President Joe Biden’s administration has called out the problem. It has declassified satellite imagery and other intelligence, providing glimpses of these ties.

“Biden has advanced an unprecedented battery of new defence exercises with Japan and South Korea that enhances deterrence and makes the three allies stronger.

“Nonetheless, Kim is on pace to conduct more military provocations this election year than ever before (surpassing 2022’s record of 48 provocations),” warned Cha.

He stressed that it was on the diplomatic front where fault could be found.

“Biden is on autopilot when it comes to North Korea, recycling talking points on denuclearisation, circa the Obama administration.

“Most experts think North Korea has at least 50 nuclear bombs now. Pyongyang has spurned over 20 private attempts by the administration to restart talks.

“It has even thrown letters back in the face of engagement-oriented US diplomats.

“The administration should shelve denuclearisation and prioritise policies to disrupt the arms trade between Russia and North Korea,” said Cha.

Cha felt that it was not an easy task as the routes used to transport North Korean arms to Russia ran deep in the latter’s territory, making military interceptions of munitions cargo, whether by boat or rail, dangerously escalatory.
Biden, Cha said, did not need a third war on his watch.

“Second, Russia’s veto in March 2024 to reauthorise a UN watchdog body on North Korean proliferation is aimed at dismantling the entire UN sanctions regime toward Pyongyang.

“Nonetheless, the toolkit is not completely bare. The US should mobilise Europeans at G7 and NATO conferences this summer to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang.

“While the US does not have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, most European governments do, and North Korea has traditionally seen Europe as its gateway to the West.

“As a first step, actions like those taken at the G7 summit last week against Russian and North Korean financial assets should be expanded in the name of disrupting the weapons trade,” opined Cha.

He understood that Biden should capitalise on Beijing’s unhappiness with the closer ties between its traditional junior partner and Putin.

“If Putin is modernising Kim’s nuclear arsenal, that will only create a greater US military presence in China’s neighbourhood and potentially even a nuclear domino effect in the region, starting with South Korea.

“China is still the economic lifeline for the North and it can join in sanctions against any companies supporting the weapons trade,” said Cha.

Cha summed up that the US should launch a major human rights and information penetration campaign.

“It should enlist Europe in this effort given the death and human suffering of Ukrainians caused by lethal North Korean support of Russia.

“North Korea’s deploying of trash balloons to the South in the past weeks in retaliation for South Korean loudspeakers blasting K-pop music at the border and non-governmental organisations dropping bibles into the North shows how sensitive the regime is to its people being exposed to the outside world.

“The Kim regime is more afraid of (South Korean boy’s band) BTS than US-South Korean military exercises. US policy desperately needs to try something new and should leverage this fact,” Cha summarised.

Cha concluded that Putin and Kim might feel that they had a match made in heaven.

“The former is getting what he needs for the war while complicating Biden’s security policies in Asia.

“The latter, with Russian sustenance, is able to wait out Biden while advancing and modernising their nuclear force. Biden should take the offensive.

“While these recommended half measures will not solve the problem, they are better than the administration recycling standard talking points,” Cha stated. – airtimes.my

#AirTimes #Global

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