Trouble in paradise?
As tension rise between America and North Korea, it appears that Russian state TV has decided to side with dictator Kim Jong Un. According to Bloomberg, the Kremlin’s top TV guy Dmitry Kiselyov made this proclamation after calling President Donald Trump “just the kind of leader the world needed” a few weeks ago.
In the latest sign of the Kremlin’s abrupt about-face on its erstwhile American hero, Kiselyov pronounced Trump “more dangerous” than his North Korean counterpart. “Trump is more impulsive and unpredictable than Kim Jong Un,” he told viewers of his prime-time Sunday “Vesti Nedelyi” program, which earlier this year carried paeans to Trump for his pledge to warm up relations with Russia.
Kiselyov and his colleagues on other channels also went after Trump’s family, noting that Kim hadn’t given his four-year-old daughter an office in his residence, in contrast to Trump’s appointment of his 35-year-old daughter, Ivanka, to a White House role.
“Ivanka already convinced Trump to bomb Assad, what if she convinces him to bomb Kim,” warned NTV’s main newscaster, Irada Zeynalova.
Kiselyov told his viewers that the planet “is a hair’s breadth away from a real nuclear war with all its catastrophic consequences.” That has to be America’s fault because according to Kiseylov, Kim Jong Un has prepared for talks nor has he attacked others or pushed military ships to America. From Reuters:
“He (Kim Jong-Un) is after all on his home territory. He doesn’t plan to attack anyone just for the sake of it,” said Kiselyov, who was a cheerleader for state TV’s strong anti-American tone under the Obama administration and once said Moscow could turn the United States into radioactive ash.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not say if the Kremlin’s views matched with Kiselyov. He did acknowledge that Kiselyov’s “position is close, but not every time.”
North Korea-Russia Relations
But is this a shock? Not really because Russia and North Korea have remained allies since the Cold War. Bloomberg stated that Russia only “maintains close ties” with the communist country, but does not consider Moscow an “ally to the regime like China.” But evidence has shown otherwise, especially in the last few years since China has shown disgust with Kim Jong Un’s constant nuclear tests.
China has even reached out to Russia to “help cool tensions over North Korea.” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to plea for help. From The Telegraph:
A statement on China’s Foreign Ministry website said Mr Wang told the Russian diplomat: “China is ready to coordinate closely with Russia to help cool down as soon as possible the situation on the peninsula and encourage the parties concerned to resume dialogue.”
The comments were in relation to the six-party talks, exchanges which centred on concerns over North Korea’s weapons program which were launched in 2003 but stalled in 2009 when North Korea walked out.
Three years ago, the Russian government “agreed to write off $10 billion of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt.” In 2015, Russia and North Korea announced a “year of friendship” to deepen their ties. From The Guardian:
North Korean state media said the two countries had agreed to make 2015 a “year of friendship” to mark the 70th anniversary of “Korea’s liberation and the victory in the great Patriotic War in Russia” – references to the defeats of Japan and Nazi Germany in 1945.
KCNA said the countries would “develop the bilateral relations on to a new higher stage in various fields, including politics, economy and culture under a mutual agreement”. The Russian foreign ministry said the agreement was designed to elevate ties “in the political, economic, humanitarian and other areas to a new level”.
Earlier this year, Russia Railways representatives traveled to “North Korea to discuss an expansion of railway links between the two countries.” Russia also provides North Korea with access to oil. The Diplomat continued:
Increasing the exposure of North Korean workers to Russian technical expertise will allow more North Koreans to staff the Rajin-Hasan railway, which links Russia to the Korean peninsula. Even though South Korea withdrew itself from the Rajin-Hasan railway project in March 2016, Moscow’s willingness to continue the project’s development highlights the strength of its relationship with the North Korean regime, during a period of unprecedented isolation for Pyongyang.
As China’s oil supplies to North Korea have been periodically disrupted due to tensions between Beijing and Pyongyang, Moscow’s importance as an investor in the DPRK’s energy sector has increased markedly. Siberian oil companies have sold fuel to North Korea via a supply route linking Vladivostok to Rajin. These fuel supplies have provided the North Korean regime with vital hard currency, as the DPRK has processed Siberian oil in chemical plants and resold it to Chinese consumers.
Kim has responded to Russia’s consistency as a North Korean economic ally by publicly hailing the DPRK’s partnership with Moscow and increasing its shipments of guest workers to construction projects in Siberia. The presence of 10,000 North Koreans in Russia and the DPRK’s convenience as a source of cheap labor for Putin’s attempts to modernize Vladivostok suggests that Moscow is unlikely to match its critical rhetoric on North Korea’s nuclear buildup with retaliatory actions for the foreseeable future.
Russia has also criticized the joint military exercises between America and South Korea, stating that these activities placed “unprecedented military and and political pressure Pyongyang.”