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The crisis on the Korean peninsula - is everything to blame Putin?

Japanese media accuse Russia of involvement in the missile potential of the DPRK

The crisis on the Korean peninsula - is everything to blame Putin?

Valery Kistanov

Head of the Center for Japanese Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies
At the Eastern Economic Forum just concluded in Vladivostok, along with pressing issues of socio-economic development of the Russian Far East and trade and economic cooperation in Northeast Asia, the aggravation of the situation on the Korean peninsula and the way of relaxation of international tension , caused by nuclear missile tests conducted by the DPRK. This topic, for obvious reasons, was one of the main ones at the meetings of Russian President Vladimir Putin with South Korean President Mun Zhe In and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

At the forum, the Japanese prime minister once again voiced the Japanese vision of solving the problem of North Korea's nuclear missile potential. It fully coincides with the position of the United States and consists in tirelessly increasing military and economic pressure on Pyongyang in order to force it to abandon this potential. Abe said in particular that the DPRK is becoming an unprecedented threat, therefore, it must exert maximum pressure on it, it is necessary to compel the country to immediately and fully implement the resolutions of the UN Security Council. For its part, Japan uses all the leverage it has to harness the economic pressure of a stubborn neighbor, and also participates in the ships and aircraft of its Self-Defense Forces in acts of military intimidation, organized in the waters and skies of the Korean peninsula by the United States, along with South Korea.

At the same time, the cause of the intractability of the Kim Jong Un regime in Tokyo, as well as in Washington and Seoul, is seen in the economic and political support that, in the opinion of the three capitals, Pyongyang is provided by Moscow and Beijing. That is why the Japanese media addressed Abe before his trip to Vladivostok with the wish to demand that Putin stop North Korea’s assistance in the field of both economics and politics.

And some Japanese newspapers directly accused Russia of involvement in the creation of the DPRK of its missile potential. Thus, the authoritative mouthpiece of Japanese business circles, the Nikkei newspaper in its September issue of 2, published an article entitled “Putin’s Shadow Looming over the North Korea’s Rocket Program.” The newspaper, in particular, writes: "The recent theory that the intercontinental ballistic missiles launched by North Korea in July were created using Soviet engines raised the question of the potential involvement of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the development of Pyongyang’s weapons."

The theory was put forward in an August report by Michael Elleman, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies based in England. In it, Elleman claimed that North Korea had acquired an improved version of the Soviet liquid fuel engine produced by Yuzhmash, a state-owned enterprise located in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro (formerly Dnipropetrovsk - V.К.).

Thus, North Korea, which regularly failed even medium-range ballistic missile launches, has drastically improved its missile technology capabilities in recent years.

Military technologies developed in the Soviet era, found their way to China, and other developing countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Many Russian and Ukrainian experts agree that North Korea uses Soviet technologies in its military programs.

The question is, when and how did Pyongyang get the Soviet rocket engines. Elleman, according to a Japanese publication, suspects that the engines were delivered to North Korea via Russia by train about two years ago. Relations between Ukraine and Russia deteriorated sharply after the pro-Western forces took power in 2014. After the termination of ties with Russia, Yuzhmash faced serious financial problems and often delayed the issuance of wages to working personnel - a condition sufficient for technology leaks.

But many believe, writes Nikkei, that Pyongyang had access to classified information even before that. In 2011, two North Korean citizens working in the Trade Mission in Belarus were arrested in Ukraine allegedly for attempting to steal missile technologies. Liquid engines are extremely complex, and it takes more than 10 years to complete their production, even after obtaining complete drawings, said Alexander Degtyarev, the chief designer of Yuzhmash since the times of the USSR.

Missile technologies most likely made their way to North Korea through the black market channels. Both Russia and Ukraine have serious problems with corruption, and are the targets of criminal organizations wishing to obtain and sell secret information.

The article says that the government of Ukraine quickly published a statement refuting the report of Elleman. Taking advantage of the US patronage, the authors of the article argue, the country has a weak motivation to support North Korea.

At the same time, some experts suspect that Russia deliberately allowed North Korea to gain access to know-how relating to intercontinental ballistic missiles. Russia has advanced rocket technology, including the production of rocket fuel and other necessary components. It is also on the side of North Korea against the United States.

According to the Japanese business newspaper, about North Korea, Putin said in June (quoted in a reverse translation from English - V.К.): “Small states have no other way to preserve their independence, security and sovereignty, except by acquiring nuclear weapons ". The authors of the article also draw attention to the fact that in May Russia launched a ferry service with North Korea.

As the Japanese diplomatic sources told the newspaper, overloading the United States with the North Korean problem, Putin distracts America's attention from the Middle East and expands Russia's influence in this region.

The newspaper believes that, regardless of Putin's intentions, the prolonged tension between the US and Russia has had a direct impact on the missile development of North Korea. Nikkei cites the opinion of the Russian military expert Yuri Fedorov, according to which the probability is high that in the missile launched by Pyongyang through Japan on August, 29, Soviet technology, provided by Russia, was used.

The Japanese law-conservative newspaper Sankei Shimbun, on the eve of the Eastern Economic Forum, strongly recommended Abe to demand from Putin the cessation of Russia's economic ties with the DPRK. In the issue that appeared on the opening day of the Forum, the publication published an editorial under the heading "At the meeting of the heads of state to achieve the cessation of oil exports to North Korea." It writes: "Premier Abe will visit Vladivostok, where he will hold talks with President Putin. Most likely, the Japanese leader is proud to have been in trust with Putin for many years. If this is so, then he gets a fine chance to directly demand that Russia join the tough sanctions against the DPRK, including the embargo on oil exports. "

"Sankei Shimbun" notes that Russia and China are criticizing North Korea, which continues to conduct nuclear tests and launch ballistic missiles, and talk about the importance of nuclear disarmament of the Korean peninsula. Nevertheless, the newspaper is sure, their actual actions look like Pyongyang's support.

In the opinion of the authors of the article, Russia is to blame for the fact that it takes a large quantity of labor from the DPRK. This is especially true of the Far Eastern region. That is, Moscow helps Pyongyang to earn valuable for it foreign currency. Along with China, Russia is also a supplier of oil and petroleum products.

The publication reports that after Pyongyang conducted another nuclear test, Premier Abe in the evening of September 3 called President Putin, who was on a visit to China. In the course of this conversation, he demanded that Russia play a constructive role in the UN Security Council, which is discussing the strengthening of sanctions.

The mouthpiece of Japanese nationalist circles insists that Russia dismiss North Korean workers, whose number reaches several tens of thousands of people, close the ferry service between Vladivostok and the DPRK and cut off the allegedly existing channel of diversion of military technologies.

As if replying in absentia to his critics in Japan, Putin said at a plenary meeting of the Vladivostok forum that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is not allowed to be sanctioned and intimidated, while the DPRK is considering statements on the conditions for refusing restrictive measures against the country as a step leading up to an invitation to the cemetery.

The President of Russia, in connection with the new tests conducted by the CDNR, called on the countries to conduct a dialogue with North Korea and to refrain from forcing "military hysteria". "This is a dead end road absolutely," the Russian head of state stressed.

Putin urged not to drive Pyongyang into a corner. It seems, however, that Washington and Tokyo are seeking this.