NORTH KOREA MAY SHOW RUSSIA’S STRATEGIC IRRELEVANCE TO PACIFIC GREAT AND REGIONAL POWER POLITICS
The stand-off between North Korea and the US continues on the rhetorical plain, with the North poised to set off its sixth nuclear explosion, potentially a thermonuclear one, and the US directing three Carrier Strike Groups, the USS Carl Vinson, the USS Ronald Reagan, and the USS Nimitz into the Sea of Japan next week.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party warned the US yesterday, "In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists' invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes." Earlier this week it was reported that Kim Jong-un and North Korean soldiers cheered after the 'US was bombed with nuclear missiles' in a video made to celebrate regime founder Kim II Sung's birthday.
South Korea and the US spent much of yesterday in a 100 aircraft war game, while, US Vice President, Mike Pence, on a final day of visit to the Northeastern Pacific region warned North Korea and the Kim Jong-un regime that “shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.” In a barely cloaked warning to Iran, US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, warned that unchecked Iran could be on the same route that North Korea currently is on. Tillerson went on to say that the U.S. is considering whether to restore North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
China is continuing to show its irritation with North Korea and a degree of strategic cooperation with the United States to avoid the unilateral use of force by the US in the event of another North provocation. The Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army (Navy) tested a number of its weapons systems on one of its new destroyers in the Yellow Sea towards North Korea’s western border while maintaining about 150,000 troops on the Northern border of the Hermit Kingdom. Additionally, the Peoples’ Liberation Army (Air Force) land-attack, cruise-missile-capable strategic bombers were reportedly placed "on high alert" on Wednesday, and China brought a significant number of other combat aircraft up to full readiness. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman warned that Beijing was "gravely concerned" about North Korea's recent nuclear and missile activities and praised the US saying, "American officials did make some positive and constructive remarks... such as using whatever peaceful means possible to resolve the (Korean) Peninsula nuclear issue. This represents a general direction that we believe is correct and should be adhered to."
Russia, for its part, has reportedly moved three railway trains of reinforcements including; troops, tanks, and other armored vehicles, to the area just above its 11 mile border with North Korea to ‘deter refugees.’ It was also revealed that two Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers were monitored as they entered the US Air Defense Identification Zone on Tuesday off Alaska, for the second time in as many days. In further apparent mischief-making, Russia also rejected a draft resolution at the UN Security Council condemning North Korea’s missile launch even though the US and China had reportedly agreed to its terms.
One of the most interesting dynamics of the whole crisis with North Korea is the dynamic of great powers and their realignment with the US on the issue of Kim Jong-un. The Putin regime in Russia is clearly alarmed at the rapidity that its relationship with President Trump has eroded, the so-called ‘bromance’ and the fever-pace at which American-Sino strategic cooperation has taken hold around the North Korean nuclear issue. The Russians are nervously trying to find a way into this crisis with the intent of splitting the Chinese and Americans up. The Chinese are using this event to cozy up to the Trump administration in hopes of continuing their bully-tactics in the South China Sea, and to gain strategic time to ultimately challenge the US for dominance in the Pacific, even if it means cutting the North off, or down to size. Regime change in North Korea continues as a real possibility as China angles for a deal with the US on the South China Sea, that Putin could have perhaps got in Eastern Europe, and the Ukraine, and lost.
The big loser in the North Korean crisis after Kim Jong-un, might just be a largely irrelevant Vladimir Putin and Russia, in Pacific diplomatic affairs. The ‘Tigger’ of global strategic diplomacy, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, may have just bounced as far as his power-base can take him in Eurasia.