High-level Russia-North Korea meeting concludes . . .
Russia and North Korea held the first round of a strategic dialogue in Moscow last week. First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui led the North Korean delegation that had discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and counterparts at the Russian defense and foreign ministries. The two groups discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues including the North’s relations with South Korea and its denuclearization negotiations with the United States.
Russia as a hot-spot mediator . . .
Although bilateral relations between North Korea and Russia became strained after Russia arrested North Korean fishermen in its territorial waters in the Sea of Japan in September, both sides remain interested in enhancing bilateral ties. Russia appears to want to help mediate negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington, possibly as a means of improving its own relations with the North and dodging international sanctions. Similarly, North Korea welcomes Russia’s role in dealing with the U.S. to reach a deal and, at the same time, considers Russia an important economic partner.
Movement towards next summit . . .
Both Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un appear eager to resume their fourth summit. After U.S. and North Korean negotiators in Stockholm in October failed to come to a mutually-agreed-upon solution to sanctions and the North’s denuclearization, the Trump administration postponed its joint military exercise with South Korea in the hope of resuming the summit. In response, North Korea refused to resume the dialogue unless the U.S. signs a peace deal and removes economic sanctions. Subsequently, North Korea conducted live artillery drills on Monday. The North Korea-U.S. tensions seem to be providing an opportunity for Russia to play a more constructive role as a global peacemaker.