As North Korea Becomes More Dangerous, Russia Boosts Its Support

North Korea’s Mangyongbong-92 ferry in the port of Vladivostok. Cargo and passenger ferry service has been launched between the North Korean port of Rajin and the Russian city of Vladivostok.
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As North Korea Becomes More Dangerous, Russia Boosts Its Support

What do the Russians gain from supporting their unstable neighbor?

Evidence shows that Russian support of North Korea is increasing, even as the threat Pyongyang poses to regional and global stability intensifies.

A new report from South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo shows that in the first five months of 2017, Russia’s exports to the North roughly doubled.

From January to May, Moscow’s exports to the North were worth $48 million, up from about $24 million during the same time frame last year. Adding to the concern is that more than 90 percent of the exports were related to energy, with mineral fuel and oil comprising the majority. This means trade between Moscow and Pyongyang now stands at an all-time high.

The Kremlin also supports the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by bringing some 50,000 North Korean laborers into Russia to work in such fields as construction and logging. These are essentially slave laborers, with the North Korean government seizing up to 80 percent of their wages to help fund the nation’s illegal nuclear and missile programs. Russia employs more of these laborers than China, the other main nation engaging in this abusive trade. The Data Base Center for North Korean Human Rights estimates that the Kim dynasty earns at least $120 million per year from North Korean laborers working in Russia.

In May, Russia and North Korea opened a new biweekly ferry service between Vladivostok and Rajin, North Korea. This is designed partly to transport North Korean laborers to and from Russia.

Meanwhile, Russia has also taken the lead in blocking attempts by the United Nations Security Council to place tighter sanctions on the North in response to its July 4 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (icbm). Two days after the test, Russian officials released a statement disputing claims by the governments of the United States, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and China that the missile was an icbm, and insisting that it was merely a medium-range weapon. “We cannot confirm that the missile can be classified as an icbm,” Russia’s United Nations mission said to other council members. “There is no consensus on this issue.”

Russia’s increasing support for the North comes during a time when the threat posed by Pyongyang is dramatically intensifying.

A South Korean government official told the Chosun Ilbo that these moves suggest that, as China is curtailing its backing of North Korea, Russia could become the rogue nation’s main international ally. “In the past, Russia seemed to follow China’s lead on the North Korean issue,” he said. “But now Moscow seems to be taking the reins.”

Moscow and Pyongyang have a decades-long history of close relations dating back to the 1948 founding of North Korea, with the backing and guidance of the Kremlin.

Today, Moscow is eager to boost its support of North Korea partly because it does not want a security vacuum to appear on its border. The support also stems from Russia’s desire to be viewed both by its citizens and the international community as a great power, capable of influencing conflicts around the world. In this way, Moscow’s involvement with the North parallels its increased attention on Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. Russia also seeks to position itself as the lead player among the countries that are determined to challenge Western attempts at global leadership.

By ramping up its support for the rogue regime of Kim Jong-un, Moscow is able to make progress toward these goals.

To understand more about Russia’s geopolitical goals, watch Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry’s video presentation on this vital topic: