North Korea conducted the nuclear test on Monday to make the US administration resume negotiations with the country which it labeled “the center of the axis of evil.” Chinese news agencies reported that an anonymous North Korean official said that Pyongyang was going to either conduct another nuclear test in the near future and outfit its missiles with nuclear warheads or return to negotiations and shut its nuclear program down. N.Korea’s choice will depend on the USA’s intention to guarantee the preservation of the Kim Jong-il’s political regime.
The USA and Japan insist on economic sanctions against North Korea. The sanctions particularly include the banning of military shipments and inspections of all cargoes delivered in and out of the country. N.Korean officials stated that they would consider such cargo inspections as an act of aggression. Nevertheless, the USA and Japan intend to intercept the money, which N.Korea makes violating the rules of the international financial system, and to freeze foreign accounts of its administration abroad. The two countries also intend to bar exports of luxury goods to North Korea. It apparently goes about the preferences of Kim Jong-il and his milieu. The N.Korean leader spends two million dollars a year to purchase Hennessy cognac which is made in France, but not in the USA or Japan.
It is worthy of note that the USA and Japan still do not know if the North Korean explosion on Monday was actually a nuclear blast.
It is not clear if Russia and China are going to support US-Japanese initiatives about N.Korea. Russia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov told his colleagues from China, South Korea and Japan that Moscow was ready to participate in a joint effort to find a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear problem. Both Moscow and Beijing imply that the diplomatic regulation of the problem excludes sanctions.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun stated yesterday that he would have to reschedule meetings with N.Korean leaders. Another top S.Korean politician said that Seoul was not going to suspend economic cooperation with North.
What will Russian diplomats decide? Russia enjoys a relatively small bilateral turnover with N.Korea ($240 million a year), which automatically pushes the country out of the list of priorities for Moscow. Iran is much more important for Russia at this point. Russia can boast of extensive economic opportunities in Iran, which makes it oppose the introduction of sanctions against Teheran. “Russia has discussed nuclear tests in North Korea. However, Russia has to take care of its own interests because any military conflict on the Korean Peninsula will lead to lamentable consequences for Russia's Far East in terms of ecology and demography. The North Korean population will flee in case of the war,” the Director of the Center for the Korean Research, Alexander Zhebin said.
Russia intends to build oil and gas pipelines across the entire Korean Peninsula. These multi-billion-dollar projects will be called into question if a war breaks out in the region. “It would obviously be a pleasure for the USA to give Russia another hotspot on its borders. Americans would simply watch news reports about the war on TV whereas Russians and Chinese would be busy with absolutely different problems. As for common Koreans, both from North and from South, the war would break into their every house,” Alexander Zhebin said.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov