Korea:A Bone of Contention or a Chance for Cooperation? A View from Russia

Due to the unprecedented crisis on the Korean Peninsula in 2016-2017, China and Russia drew closer on Korean affairs and became united in opposition to the US policy of pressure and threats. A détente era in Korea since 2018 gave a new boost to their cooperation—permanent channels of coordination were established, while both countries were concerned that US policy could be unpredictable and unmanageable. US-Russia contacts on the Korean issue also became more meaningful as the US position was seen by Russia as more realistic. It remains one of the few channels on international matters where the two adversaries try to find common ground. The idea of trilateral dialogue, thus, is worth exploring.

Common interests and contradictions

The Korean issue is one of the few in Asia where the world’s four biggest powers are directly involved. Through most of the post-WWII period the US, China, and Russia were at odds with each other on Korea (even North Korea’s communist allies—the USSR and China—were competing since the late 1950s, when Kim Il-sung chose the path of “independence”). The situation is more variable now. Over the last twenty-odd years Russia has consistently tried to increase its role in Korean affairs after in the 1990s its leverage dwindled. Now the US and China play the major role, while Russia has to maneuver both to resolve the important security issue at its doorstep and to protect its national interests, while not being in a dominant position. However, that does not mean that Moscow’s role might be neglected. The Stratfor experts observe: “Though Russia alone cannot solve the North Korean problem, it could move the dial just enough to either play spoiler or ally to any efforts by the West to solve it.”1   

When the “turn to the East” became the backbone of Russia’s policy in the mid-2010s,2 Moscow had to pay more attention to promoting its regional interests and coordination within the Russia-China-US triangle, in which Russia is the weakest partner. The Korean issue is one of the Asian problems where Russia’s position is comparatively advantageous.

The current major change in the situation around Korea poses a “philosophical question”: should Russia do its best to promote a process which would placate the area at her border and present new economic possibilities, seeing the accompanying decline of its influence? Or should it be suspicious that the US, perceived as an enemy, would strengthen its positions in its immediate neighborhood by drawing the DPRK into its orbit? What are Russia’s interests in Korea and how they can be coordinated with those of other players, specifically the US and China?

  • Prevention of a possible large-scale conflict that could change the entire geopolitical balance in Asia, as well as result in the militarization of this region, was Russia’s priority for many years. It well corresponded to China’s interest; however recent events reduced such a danger.
  • Moreover, in the 2010s, even in the absence of a direct conflict, increased militarization of the area, including the appearance of new US “strategic assets” (especially missile defense systems, eventually capable of undermining Russia’s missile deterrent in the East) and troops became a military concern for both China and Russia. It could lead to the militarization of Northeast China, the re-militarization of Japan, and an eventual arms race embracing all of the regional countries.
  • Moscow considers that the solution of the Korean issue should be found within a multiparty diplomatic process on a mutually beneficial basis, reflecting the interests of all the parties concerned.  Given the hostilities for many years, it effectively meant “strategic patience”—preserving the situation and calling for a “diplomatic solution” in the absence of any ability to change the situation in favor of the principles, on which Moscow’s policy is based.
  • At the moment of writing, however, Moscow’s ideology of settlement through mutual concessions and compromise3 looks more relevant than at any time since the breakdown of the Six-Party talks (which were in fact based on this approach).4 It is meaningful that Russia and China took the initiative to suggest (in the summer of 2017) a “roadmap,” further developing this mutual concessions and step-by-step approach.

North-South reconciliation and cooperation without outside interference is constantly supported by Russia. At the same time, it pays lip service to adherence to a distant goal of eventual Korean reunification in a form agreed upon by both the North and the South—the creation of a unified, peaceful, and prosperous Korea that is friendly to Russia. However, Russia sees the unification of Korea as less and less probable. It also should be admitted that a unified Korea dependent on a foreign country would be detrimental to Russian interests, and Russia would strive to prevent such a development. “Absorption” of the North by a pro-American South Korea could be harmful both to the Korean nation and regional security, and Russia would probably join China in opposing such a scenario. However, almost equally, a possible China-dominated North Korea is also undesirable for Russia, as such a regime would probably be unstable and such a development would cause “containment” efforts aimed at China and increasing military tensions in the area.

Avoiding damage to the non-proliferation regime is Russia’s policy goal of no less importance than peace-keeping. This regime is the cornerstone of Russia’s strategic position in the world—its possible collapse, including the appearance of new nuclear states, would undermine the basis for Russia’s political power as well as increase the danger of the emergence of other nuclear states and actors. Russia will never recognize the DPRK as a nuclear state.

However, arguably, for both Russia and China, stability in the neighborhood might be a higher priority than denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula (which might also raise questions about Russian and Chinese nuclear forces in the neighboring area). On the positive side, a reduction of tensions would be beneficial for expanding economic cooperation in East Asia, encompassing both China and Russia. Russia wants coordination of its efforts in the region with China (although Chinese and Russian interests might differ). Geopolitically, a regional Cold War era-like division on Korean affairs (3+3) is seen as undesirable by Russia; rather “a concert of powers” is attractive. The detente on the Korean Peninsula since late 2017 might present a chance for Moscow to try for more elaborate triangular diplomacy with Beijing and Washington to promote a settlement on the Korean Peninsula with consideration of her own interests. To achieve this goal for Russia it is necessary to maintain both good relations with the DPRK and cooperation with other major players. Therefore, the North Korean factor has been given attention since the 2000s.

The Russia-China strategic partnership and the Korean issue

After the end of the Cold War, Russia had more or less delegated the ungrateful task of defending North Korea to China. Obviously, Moscow had much less leverage than Вeijing to alter North Korean behavior and had no stimulus to be seen as responsible for it. Therefore, during deliberations on North Korean misbehavior in the UN or on other occasions Russia usually let China perform the task and then undersign the agreement reached with the US. China cannot afford to lose an important buffer and see the whole of Korea become a US sphere of influence; that would be a major setback in geopolitical competition, of the same magnitude as the US losing control over Cuba in the early 1960s. Thus, it is more a Chinese responsibility to carry the burden of the Korean problem, and Russia just should do its best to protect its interests, which are generally much more modest than those of China. To do this, Russia should avoid being seen as a threat or a nuisance by both Koreas. As a result, Russia in 2016-2017 was reluctant to join Chinese pressure on Pyongyang—not only because it lacks the relevant leverage, but also out of concern for spoiling relations with Pyongyang. At the same time, Russia resolutely supported China’s resistance to the hostile policy of the US and its allies on the Korean Peninsula, capitalizing on the fact it did not invest too much effort into this support.

Can Russia play its own game on the Korean Peninsula?  Some examples suppose that it can; however, possible Chinese dissatisfaction (or call it jealousy) would limit the magnitude of the designs of Russian policymakers, lest it could cause frictions with China. For example, Russia had a chance to increase its clout, but took only half-hearted efforts in this directions when relations between China and North Korea were strained in the early period of the rule of Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un (both due to personal relations and Beijing’s tilt towards Seoul). Deterioration of relations between North Korea and China became pronounced in the wake of the execution of Chang Song-thaek, who was considered to be one of the North Korean leaders closest to China. At moments China was perceived in Pyongyang as an existential threat rather than an ally. Kim Jong-un might have become suspicious of deep-seated   Chinese intentions—a possibility of changing the regime to a more loyal and predictable one must have crossed the minds of Chinese policy makers. The mysterious murder in 2017 of Kim Jong-nam—a possible pretender—attributed to North Koreans may be explained in these terms.

In 2017, such thinking was manifest in direct criticism of China by the North Korean press, leaving Russia the least criticized major power involved in Korean affairs.5  Some experts at that time even suggested that North Korean’s nuclear and missile program was meant as a hedge not only against the United States and South Korea, but also China. (Privately, North Koreans did not dispel such mind games).

The obvious choice, given the limited number of options, was to turn to Russia as a balancer.6 It was North Korea that took the initiative in the rapprochement with Russia in 2014-2016.7 The “crusade” against Russia started by the West in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis and takeover of Crimea in 2014 also helped: one of the consequences was a better understanding and greater support between Russia and North Korea in spite of missile and nuclear tests. As for Chinese factor, some experts noted that “Moscow and Pyongyang are all on the same page, however, there are very real differences between Beijing and Moscow vis-à-vis the Korean Peninsula…. Kremlin has its own interests for which it is advocating. A multilateral security mechanism would possibly allow Russia to enjoy influence in Northeast Asian security in contrast to American (and to a much lesser extent, Chinese) dominance. Indeed the stalling of the Six Party Talks in 2009, to which Russia was only grudgingly invited in the first place, represented a setback for what little influence in the Korean security crisis Moscow had.”8

Political exchanges between Russia and the DPRK sharply increased in these years.9 Negotiations on several major economic projects started, responding to North Korea’s initiative. More than a dozen treaties and agreements were signed, while Russian investors working on DPRK projects were promised to benefit from exclusive terms. Russia extended food aid to North Korea, developed cultural cooperation and its “soft power” became much more visible in Pyongyang.

However, the failure of Kim Jong-un to visit Russia for the Victory-day celebration in May 2015, where he was invited and until the last moment expected, showed the limits of rapprochement.10 Russia also disapproved of many aspects of North Korean behavior and had to take into account international reaction (especially that of China).

Nevertheless, North Koreans obviously considered (impressed by Russia’s resolute defense of the Syrian regime and decisive policy in the case of US-backed Ukraine) getting Russia’s protection, even sounding out such ideas through various channels, while seeking more balance in their external support and more “multi-vector” diplomacy. However, the Kremlin’s position was in fact ambivalent and indecisive.

As for the nuclear problem, the differences between the positions of China and Russia to the middle of 2016 remained marginal,11 although the Chinese reaction was harsher.12 In regard to peace regime building, Russia had to grudgingly accept China’s position that this should be the object of a 4-party diplomatic process, while Russia would only be allowed to discuss the nuclear problem in the six-party format (probably with little result).

Nuances happened to be important, for example, as the adoption of UNSC Resolution 2270 in response to North Korean nuclear and missile tests of January-February 2017 unexpectedly became a watershed in the Chinese attitude toward North Korean behavior, which Russia was reluctant to follow. Not expecting major changes in Chinese policy, Russia as usual delegated the negotiations on the content of the resolution to China and was amazed by the unexpected Chinese agreement to impose harsher sanctions. Moreover, they affected Russia’s own interests, including those in raw materials imports and transportation (Russia’s business was interested in precisely the rare earth and non-ferrous metals targeted by the new resolution, as well as iron ore) and Smolenskaya square (headquarters of the Russian Foreign Ministry) was given only 24 hours to approve the draft, which was not enough to thoroughly analyze the consequences and approve a balanced decision.13

Events in late 2016-early 2017 showed some dichotomy in the approaches of the two countries to other Korean Peninsula problems; on THAAD deployment in the ROK, Russia saw it through strategic stability glasses,14 while China showed more concern about its own security.15 The priorities of the two allies became more nuanced, although not contradicting each other. Seeing the danger of playing into the hands of North Korea, which wanted Russia and China to be at loggerheads and extract benefits (an old game mastered by Kim Il-sung in the 1960-70s), Russia took into account Chinese concern.16 The Korean issue then started to be regularly tackled between Russia and China both through bilateral diplomatic channels and also in international meetings and organizations, especially at the UN. Additionally, a permanent deputy-minister level strategic “Dialogue on security in Northeast Asia” centered on issues related to Korea was initiated,17 meeting several times a year.18 The meetings with in-depth discussions take place every two or three months. Almost a dozen rounds of consultations took place in 2018 year alone.19

In 2107 Russia had vigorous discussions with China on different levels in order to coordinate approaches to the Korean issue. As a result, a joint position was approved during the Putin-Xi Jinping meeting on July 4, 2017 and included in a joint statement by their foreign ministers.20   This is one of the first examples of the two Eurasian neighbors publicly working out a coordinated approach towards a major international problem. It became an open offer to the major international   actors to act in coordination to solve a long-standing dispute.

The roadmap included 3 stages. The first was suspension for suspension—a voluntary moratorium on DPRK nuclear and missile tests, along with a statement of its respect for the non-proliferation of missile and nuclear technologies, in return for US and ROK suspension or limiting of the scale of military exercises. The second, a signing of bilateral documents between the DPRK, US, ROK, and maybe Japan, stipulating the generally accepted principles of relations (non-use of force, etc.). However North-South relations should be dealt with on a separate track. The third stage is six party talks dedicated to the creation of a Northeast Asia security system—in the framework of which such issues as denuclearization, sanctions (including unilateral ones) military threats and confidence-building, and the foreign military presence are to be discussed. Russia thus accommodated the Chinese-proposed ideas of “double freeze” (missile and nuclear activities by the DPRK and large-scale joint exercises by the US and the ROK) and “parallel advancement” towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the creation of a peace mechanism on the peninsula. Nevertheless, the plan was criticized and largely ignored by the US, Japan, and South Korea, although some experts did support the idea of a “double freeze.”21 North Korea chose not make any official statement in support of the initiative and privately explained that was due to the hostile policy of the US. Nevertheless, its diplomatic outreach at the beginning of 2018, including an active dialogue with the South and the US, was in fact implementation of the first stage of the initiative—a freeze of nuclear and missile tests in exchange for the US-South Korea halt of military drills.

As this new era started, the Chinese role grew. Kim Jong-un succeeded in mending fences with Xi Jinping, and his first visit to Beijing in the spring of 2018 helped him to get full Chinese support. Russia was unprepared for such a development and helplessly saw its influence dwindle. At the same time, it was not a policy failure, as the events took exactly the turn to which Russia had been striving for many years. Without investing much political or military capital, Russia in fact saw its policy aims fulfilled—military wrangling at her doorstep subsided and cooperation and dialogue, for which Moscow had always called, took an impressive start (albeit with a limited Russian role).

As a result, the importance for Moscow of multidimensional policy cooperation with Beijing and the two Koreas, as well as the US, grew considerably-–explained by the urgency both to promote peace-building and to protect Russia’s national interests. In 2018, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Pyongyang after a long hiatus (in May), followed by Speaker of the Senate Valentina Matvienko (September); both were the first Russian politicians to have very cordial interactions with Kim Jong-un. In the meantime, Russia and the DPRK resumed attempts to develop economic ties despite very unfavorable conditions (in 2016-17 they had to put on hold almost all economic projects, and the volume of bilateral trade declined as a result of sanctions—both direct and indirect via third countries, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.) 

As the essence of the tectonic changes in the Korean situation was concentrated in the US-North Korea and North-South tracks, Russia, while enthusiastically supporting both, had to face the fact that both politically and economically its role had become secondary. Swallowing its pride, Russia chose to follow the Chinese lead as well as tried to increase its intellectual input in shaping the US approach to North Korea via different US-Russia channels.

Cooperation with China helped Russia to implement an innovative approach: in 2018 it progressed to the degree North Korea had to agree to trilateral contacts—something unthinkable only a few years ago. North Korean was historically allergic to the “domination of great powers” after a joint USSR-China delegation tried to oust Kim Il-sung from his posts in 1956.22 In October 2018 Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Morgulov, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kong Xuanyou, and Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui met in Moscow23 to discuss the ongoing talks between the DPRK and both the US and South Korea. They also pressed “to start a timely review by the UN Security Council of the sanctions measures against the DPRK,24 There were also unsubstantiated reports that the three countries agreed on the need for five-way talks including the United States and South Korea to end tensions.25

Russia and China also took joint action in the UN Security Council: in September 2018 they suggested that the Security Council needed to consider reviewing sanctions in due course to encourage the DPRK and other relevant parties to move denuclearization further ahead. However, this appeal was strongly rejected by the US, demonstrating the depth of divisions between the major actors.26 At the same time, the combined Russian and Chinese impact does have some effect on US leadership, the position of which has considerably shifted to realism in the run up to the second US-North Korea summit.

Cooperation with the US on Korean affairs?

Is there any possibility for meaningful and results-oriented coordination of the Russia-China and US approaches to the Korean issue as it has become one of the crucial international policy problems where the two “blocks” interact on the highest level? Given the growing hostility to Russia in the US establishment, is this possible?

Historically, at least in the Putin era, the approaches of the US and Russia to the Korean issue were divisive. Moreover, Russia now appears to be in doubt concerning the true goals of US policy in Korea. While the US seems to have abandoned the goal of the elimination of the DPRK—at least for now—is this approach irreversible? Will the US establishment try to engage North Korea to an extent it could become a semi-ally of the US in containing China (“Vietnam scenario”)?  In this case, would it tolerate not only human rights problems in the DPRK but its residual nuclear potential, in the process undermining North Korean relations with China and Russia and helping North Korea to become more independent? A conspiracy school considers that the US wishes just to continue the “controlled chaos” situation in order to contain China and Russia (in an area, which is a sphere of vital interests for both) and increase the US military presence there.  

Many of the past contradictions between the Russian-Chinese and US approaches remain and could emerge as major negative factors at some point:

  • The US has not abandoned the “all options” approach (including a military one). to curtail the North Korean missile and nuclear programs. Russia consistently insists that only political-diplomatic tools are permissible.
  • The US believes that sanctions and isolation may force North Korean leaders to succumb to pressure and agree to what it regards as unreasonable demands. Russia is skeptical about the view that sanctions alone can change North Korean behavior and is against seeing them as an end in itself.
  • The US and South Korea, up to 2018 at least, proceeded from the probability of collapse of the North Korean regime and occupation of North Korea by the South. Russia, admitting the possibility of an emergency from a calamity of some kind, evaluates the regime as stable and warns that the strategy should not be based on the “regime change” concept or on the presumption it is possible to ignore the current regime.
  • The US is afraid of the possibility of “alliance decoupling” in case North Korea would keep its nuclear weapons. Russia sees such a danger as remote.
  • The US, in general, still demands CVID (compete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization or, currently, FFVD—final, fully verified denuclearization) as a prerequisite for improvement of relations. Russia believes the discussion on North Korean security modalities should be simultaneous with negotiations on the nuclear issue.
  • Russia/China and the US even refer to the problem of the Korean Peninsula differently: Russia prefers “nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula,” implying that South Korean territory should also be included into any deal.
  • The US “political class” is, in general, still skeptical about formally recognizing the DPRK, seeing it as a “rogue regime,” causing many concerns independent of the nuclear problem, such as other WMD and human rights. Russia thinks that recognizing a state existing for 70+ years—a UN member—is a normal step towards the creation of a system of collective security in Northeast Asia.

The contradictions grew especially visible in the period of the "Trump-Kim" stand-off starting from the spring of 2017, as it caught Russian policy-makers off guard. Moscow saw little logic in what was happening in 2017, as in the initial period of the Trump administration North Korea exercised relative restraint, compared to similar periods in previous years. The belligerent rhetoric from both sides was unusual and could have triggered a real conflict by mistake or accidentally as both were watching whether “the other guy would blink.” At the same time, Russian political circles and the public resented US pressure on China and Russia to increase sanctions against North Korea and even “monitor” compliance.27

In 2018 the positions of the two countries drew closer, as the US and the DPRK started a high-level, meaningful dialogue. Russian policymakers noted that past mistakes were recognized by the current US administration, for example, during a recent talk at Stanford where Special Representative Stephen Biegun admitted that “there were missed opportunities by both the United States and North Korea.”

Can a fruitful Russia-US cooperation on the Korean problem blossom? Russia certainly wishes that, as this would increase its ability to promote its interests in Korea. The crucial factor is the ongoing shift in US approach. Today the US seems to recognize the new geopolitical situation of the emergence of different power centers (including China and Russia), which gives little hope for the possibility that the North Korean state can be brought down peacefully in a “soft landing” scenario and its territory taken by one of the competing “camps” in a serene manner. Thus, the basis for meaningful policy coordination emerged. Now, for the first time in many years, an objective basis for mutual understanding and even assistance between Russia and the US has emerged. Moreover, what is important for Russia, unlike the situation of the 1990s, when the US had the desire and ability to dictate to Russia its line of action, now the dialogue is on a more equal footing. There are a number of examples for that.

US-Russia contacts on Korea became regular, remaining one of the few channels on international matters where the two adversaries try to find common ground. Moreover, there are signs that the US might perceive this dialogue as one of the very few, if not the sole possible “success story” in Russia-US cooperation on international affairs. Now the positions have become pretty close: both countries strive for denuclearization in a phased manner, the US more or less agreed to the need for the “action for action” principle, Russia tries to faithfully observe the sanctions regime, and US diplomacy seeks Russian advice and support in respect to North Korea. The US does not see Russia as a competitor on the Korean Peninsula; moreover, Russia may become a counter-balance for excessive Chinese influence.

In fact, the more or less permanent deputy-minister (special representative)-level consultation mechanism with periodic US-Russia contacts emerged over the past two years. One of the first examples was the visit in July 2017 to the US of Morgulov in order to explain the Russia-Chinese initiative on the settlement of the Korean issue. Although the US side was lukewarm about it at the time, in fact it contributed to the development of a “blueprint” on parallel channels (“omnibus negotiations”) and sequence of actions. Russia welcomed the Singapore summit and further US-DPRK negotiations, noting with satisfaction that Trump and Kim have decided to pursue a top-down approach with a broad set of actions that—if successful—will fundamentally transform relations between the two countries.28 At the same time, the Russian Foreign Ministry did not miss the chance to stress that there was no way Moscow could be excluded from regional negotiations.29

US-Russian dialogue continued on the “sherpa” level with Biegun in October 2018 in Moscow and then during Morgulov’s visit to Washington in January 2019, and further in Moscow in February 2019, as well as at the working level.30 The US side asked Russia to advise on the modalities for discussing denuclearization during the forthcoming, second US-DPRK summit and it was confirmed that US appreciates the role Russia plays on the Korean Peninsula. Russia also confirmed its position on the need for step-by-step sanctions relief, as North Korea during the last year and a half has fulfilled some of the stipulations of the UN resolutions and adequate reaction from the UN is needed.31

Taking into account that the US-China discussion mechanism on Korean affairs is more developed and multifaceted, the idea of trilateral US-China-Russia discussions comes to mind. In fact, such a dialogue has started on the expert level in 2017 and proved to be extremely useful. Why not continue such exchanges on an official level as well?

1. “Russia Seizes an Opportunity in North Korea,” Stratfor, May 5, 2017, https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/russia-seizes-opportunity-north-korea

2. Alexander Lukin, Pivot to Asia (Moscow: “Ves Mir,” 2014), 509-510.

3. It is worth remembering that during the nuclear crisis of 2002 Moscow first suggested the formula of a “package solution,” which, although not officially recognized by other members, was used during the Six-Party talks in 2005-2007.
Press-statement of Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, N46 of January 12, 2003

4. In 2007 the six parties “reaffirmed their common goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner. The DPRK will shut down and seal the Yongbyon nuclear facility and invite back IAEA inspectors. The DPRK will discuss all its nuclear programs including its plutonium extraction. The DPRK and the US will start bilateral talks aimed at resolving pending bilateral issues and moving toward full diplomatic relations. The US will advance the process of terminating sanctions. The parties agreed to cooperate in economic, energy and humanitarian -assistance to the DPRK. The agreement was based on a step by step or action for action approach.” Statement by President Bush on Six Party Talks, US Department of State, https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/february/80479.htm

5. The criticism could be seen as the answer to the mounting hard feelings in Beijing towards the North Korean leadership, including “severe measures” in sanction policy, while the Chinese press stated, “Pyongyang faces a strategic choice between confrontation to the end at the risk of survival and coming back to the negotiation table by abandoning its nuclear program.” A KCNA editorial on May 4, 2017 said such “absurd and reckless remarks” from China’s state media were making the bad situation worse and added, “China should no longer try to test the limits of the DPRK’s patience… China had better ponder over the grave consequences to be entailed by its reckless act of chopping down the pillar of the DPRK-China relations.”

6. “Russia Seizes an Opportunity in North Korea,” Stratfor.

7. The experts of Stratfor wrote: “After Japan and the West levied sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the Ukraine conflict and its annexation of Crimea, Russia’s view of North Korea shifted. Russia began quietly laying the groundwork that would strengthen its ties to North Korea, thus increasing its global political leverage should it need it. Russia can never replace China’s influence over North Korea, but it could interfere with measures employed by China, the United States or their allies to try to pressure Pyongyang. “Russia Seizes an Opportunity in North Korea,” Stratfor.

8. Anthony V. Rinna, “Why Choe Son Hui went to Moscow,” NK News, October 11, 2018,

9. “Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Russia and DPRK will host a joint Year of Friendship,” RIA News Agency, March 5, 2015, https://ria.ru/world/20150311/1051916532.html

10. Matthew Chance, Ed Payne and Greg Botelho, “Kim Jong Un’s visit to Moscow is off, Russian official says,” CNN, April 30, 2015, http://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/30/world/russia-kim-jong-un-visit

11. For example, reacting to the 5th nuclear test, Russia in February 2016 voiced “strong protest” and warned about an “increase in tensions” and the danger of “bloc policy” and an “increase in military confrontation.” Statement of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation with reference to North Korea launching boost vehicle, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, February 7, 2016, http://www.mid.ru/ru/maps/kp/-/asset_publisher/VJy7Ig5QaAII/content/id/2064271

12. China additionally demanded “strong actions [that] should have a definite direction with the objective of effectively curbing the DPRK’s efforts to advance its nuclear and missile program.”

13. “UNSCR 2270: A Conundrum for Russia,” 38 North, March 5, 2016, http://38north.org/2016/03/gtoloraya030516/

14. The two sides, for example, differed in motivation on such issues as THAAD deployment in South Korea. Russia’s “grave concern” was explained publicly by the danger that it “leads to increase the potential of Asia-Pacific segment of [US] global missile defense, which results in undermining the existing strategic balances…,” paying most attention to the Russia-US strategic balance issue. Statement of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation with reference to deployment of US Missile Shield System in Republic of Korea, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, July 8, 2016, http://www.mid.ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/2349040

15. China noted that the deployment “damage[s] directly China’s strategic security interests” as “monitoring range of its X-band radar, goes far beyond the defense need of the Korean Peninsula and will reach deep into the Asian hinterland.” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei’s Regular Press Conference on February 15, 2016, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/t1340636.shtml

16. Beijing even sent in September 2015 for the first time in modern history its first deputy chairman of the government Xiao Jiang to Russia solely to discuss Korean problems.

17.  On the Consultations of the Deputy Minister I. Morgulov, The Ministry of Foregin Affairs of the Russian Federation, http://www.mid.ru/hu/search?p_p_id=3&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_state=maximized&p_p_mode=view&_3_displayDatefrom=&_3_direct=desc&_3_advancedSearch=false&_3_displayDate=&_3_keywords=первый+заместитель+министра+иностранных+дел+КНР&_3_filterCategoryId=-

18. MFA Foreign Policy news, http://www.mid.ru/web/guest/foreign_policy/news/-/assect_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/2507405

19. On the meeting of Deputy Minister I.V. Morgulov with PRC Deputy Minister Kung Xuanyou, The Ministry of Foregin Affairs of the Russian Federation, http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3511832

20. Joint Statement of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China on the Problems of Korean Peninsula, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation, July 4, 2017, http://www.mid.ru/web/guest/maps/kr/-/asset_publisher/PR7UbfssNImL/content/id/2807662

21. Leon Sigal, “A Strategy for Dealing with North Korea,” The Asia Pacific Journal 15, no. 15 (2017), https://apjjf.org/2017/15/Sigal.html

22. Sergey Radchenko, “We do not want to overthrow him”: Beijing, Moscow, and Kim Il Sung, 1956,” Wilson Center, August 7, 2017, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/we-do-not-want-to-overthrow-him-beijing-moscow-and-kim-il-sung-1956; See also “Soviet Union-North Korea Relations,” Wilson Center Digial Archive, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/collection/120/soviet-union-north-korea-relations

23. Colin Zwirko, “China, N. Korea, Russia call for “review” of UNSC sanctions in joint communiqué,” NK News, October 10, 2018, https://www.nknews.org/2018/10/china-n-korea-russia-call-for-review-of-unsc-sanctions-in-joint-communique/?c=1548942823259

24. Joint Communique of the Sino-Russia-North Korea trilateral meeting, http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3370331?c=1548943527267

25. “Moscow Speaks of Need for Five-Way International Talks to End Korean Tensions,” US News, October 10, 2018, https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-10-10/moscow-speaks-of-need-for-five-way-international-talks-to-end-korean-tensions?c=1548942823259

26. Leo Byrne, “UNSC meeting reveals divisions on North Korea sanctions,” NK News, September 27, 2018, https://www.nknews.org/2018/09/unsc-meeting-reveals-divisions-on-north-korea-sanctions/?c=1548943549559

27. “Moscow Evaluated US Plan to Monitor Primorie ports,” RIA Novosti, March 5, 2017,


28. “Remarks on DPRK at Stanford University,” US Department of State, January 31, 2019 https://www.state.gov/p/eap/rls/rm/2019/01/288702.htm

29. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation,  http://www.mid.ru/web/guest/maps/us/-/asset_publisher/unVXBbj4Z6e8/content/id/3204522

30. MFA Foreign Policy News, http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3510743

31. TASS, January 25, 2019, https://tass.ru/politika/6043871?fbclid=IwAR0sElL4OzaVyGarAlRVIlwh6LpdAaqOgCcOU7kRLebdWEJBWA1vlYaD6iQ