[imText1]North Korea is giving the impression that it uses the six-party talks as an opportunity to improve a simultaneous “two-player foreign relations.”
At a press conference on the 13th in Japan, Alexander Losyukov, the Russian ambassador to Japan, revealed “It looks like the six-party talks on the North Korean nuke issue will reconvene early next month.”
He said “Holding the talks every 2 years, or every year, even every 6 months is not enough. The situation may worsen if the talks are delayed and then conflicts may intensify” and added “The six-party talks must pick up the pace.”
Furthermore, Mr. Losyukov commented “Although North Korea is developing nukes, it appears that the reason behind this is to combat violations made by foreign sovereign powers through military attack and political pressure” and said “North Korea must freely surrender its nuke program. Threatening to force North Korea to surrender its nukes will not solve the issue.”
Until now, North Korea has primarily utilized China as its channel to discuss topics or the agenda of the six-party talks. Basically, negotiations were made with China, regarding the agenda of reconvening talks and then China relayed the information as the chairman country.
However, recently there have been a few cases where Russia has spoken on behalf of North Korea regarding the six-party talks and North Korean issues instead of China, which has raised fears that like the past, a revival of a two-player foreign relations by North Korea with China-Soviet Union is about to begin. In particular, many critics analyze that North Korea feels greatly betrayed by China who cooperated with the U.S. financial sanctions and participated in the U.N. North Korea sanctions.
Particularly, these suspicions were further elevated when North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju stopped at Beijing momentarily on the 8th (local time) before transferring to Moscow. While rumors spread that Vice Minister Kang was visiting Russian on reasons regarding his personal health, Russia’s major news agency ITAR (Information Telegraph Agency of Russia) reported that the foreign ministers met to discuss future plans.
According to sources in Moscow, the Korean media reported on the 14th that Vice Minister Kang met Konstantin Pulikovsky Minister for the Federal Agency for Environmental, Technological and Atomic Oversight who is known for having intimate relations with General Kim Jong Il.
In the past, Minister Pulikovsky was the Russian Presidential Envoy to the Far East Federal District and was the person responsible for organizing Kim Jong Il’s visit to Russia in 2001. Consequently, analysts propose that the purpose of Minister Kang’s visit to Russia was to discuss issues regarding Kim Jong Il’s plans.
Sources say “It does not seem likely that the meeting with Pulikovsky was purely based on encouraging friendly relations or to ensure solidarity between the two countries” and “It is likely that issues regarding Kim Jong Il’s plans were discussed.”
It has been prospected that once this visit to Russia is complete North Korea’s foreign relations will be removed from China and driven towards Russia.
From a different perspective, it is said that this “two-player foreign relations” will end with only a showcase toward China, as North Korea’s economic and foreign dependence on China is so big.
Professor Lee Ji Sue of North Korean Studies at Myungji University said “North Korea’s frequent contact with Russia cannot simply be disregarded as a foreign effort to symbolize a nuptial relationship” and “In the past, whenever there was a change in situations, both countries were consulted and there were many cases where officials would visit one another within a short period of time.”
Professor Lee analyzes “Even if North Korea depends on Russia and the North’s nuclear threat eases, rather than Russia patting North Korea on the back, there is a greater possibility that North Korea will be manipulated and complicated calculations made.”
What North Korea desperately needs right now is energy. Approximately 90% of North Korea’s oil is dependent on China. If China ceases to provide North Korea with fuel, the Kim Jong Il system will be hit directly. Consequently, Kim Jong Il is utilizing Russia to safely decentralize his energy supply from both China-Russia.
In particular, as the U.N. North Korea sanctions come into affect and North Korea continues to one-sidedly depend on China, Kim Jong Il will be placing his fate into the hands of China. Although we must now wait and see, it is prospected that Kim Jong Il will strategically utilize Russia regarding the reconvening of the six-party talks more than it has in the past.