Moscow must play a proactive role to end the latest Korean crisis

North Korea has threatened nuclear strikes against South Korea and the US. Source: AP

North Korea has threatened nuclear strikes against South Korea and the US. Source: AP

Russia, one of the few countries that has any kind of clout with the regime in Pyongyang, needs to work through diplomatic channels to defuse this ticking nuclear time bomb.

War drums are beating across the Korean peninsula with the ever-belligerent North Korean regime going as far as threatening nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States. It would be foolish to underestimate a regime, which for decades has been one of the greatest dangers to world peace.

The global community is used to threats from the Kim family. The deceased leader Kim Jong-il stood up to George W. Bush when the latter clubbed North Korea with Iran and Iraq in a fictitious “axis of evil.” Many analysts believe that the threat of using nuclear weapons kept “Dubya” from indulging in a misadventure in the Korean peninsula. When Kim Jong-il died, there was hope that a new young leader would abandon the Cold War-type aggressive postures but all we know about Kim Version 3.0 is that he is a hawk from the same lineage of his father and grandfather.

The problem with North Korea, which is one of the world’s largest proliferators of terror, is that it is a country with relatively little to lose. A vast majority of its population is starving, while its leaders enjoy the finest cognac and eat lobsters. The country isn’t particularly rich in natural resources and survives basically on global handouts. The prospect of the ruin, destruction and radiation spreading across the peninsula doesn’t seem to bother the decision-makers in Pyongyang.

Going by this article in The New York Times, China, which has the greatest influence over North Korea, has indicated that it won’t turn its back on its ally. There is no clarity from Beijing on its reactions if Pyongyang decides to go ahead with everything it’s actually threatening. This despite the fact that instability in the Korean peninsula will have severe ramifications for China, with its warm water port of Dalian being very close to Korea.

Russia is the only major global player besides China that has any sort of clout with North Korea. Moscow’s relations with Seoul have also been rapidly improving over the last two decades and would be seen by both parts of the divided peninsula of having a degree of neutrality. Like China, Russia has supported UN Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang but very little official comments have come out of the Kremlin in the wake of the latest North Korean threats. It’s imperative that Moscow use its diplomatic leverage over the famine-stricken yet nuclear armed country and work towards an amicable solution to the latest flare-up.

A regime like that of the Kim family, which starves and sends hundreds of thousands of its own citizens to gulags, is unlikely to care about the repercussions of a war with its southern neighbour and the United States. An out of control North Korea is crazy enough to randomly fire nuclear weapons in all sorts of directions even if it means getting vaporised itself.   

Unlike many commentators who talk about North Korea with a great sense of authority, I had the “privilege” of visiting the country back in 2005. I was politely told by the friend who invited me to the paradise that combines Socialism and Confucianism that if I ever wrote about my trip, he’d end up in some sort of a gulag.

History has yet to show us what happens when a country armed with nuclear weapons is attacked. A war involving nuclear-powered North Korea could prove to be catastrophic for the entire human race.  The onus is on Russia to defuse this ticking nuclear time bomb. 

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