As China Stopped Trading With North Korea, Russia To Become Kim Jong-un’s Closest Ally?

As the world is disdaining North Korea’s recent missile test and their complete rejection of United Nations’ sanctions request, China has finally responded to President Donald Trump’s request of pressuring the Korean Peninsula to stop developing their ballistic missiles. Given the latest updates — when China is no longer North Korea’s greatest ally in the East, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has stepped in to help Kim Jong-un to stay connected with the rest of the world.

On one hand, where China has restrained its coal deliveries to North Korea and taken other mandatory steps to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to halt his nuclear and ballistic missile development programs, trade between Russia and North Korea increased by 73 percent during the first two months of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016. The trade between the countries is boosted mostly by increased coal deliveries from Russia, Russian state-owned news site Sputnik reported.

In addition to this, there are several moves by Russia to expand commerce with North Korea. Both Russia and North Korea have reached a labor immigration agreement to expand a program that already employs more than 40,000 North Korean laborers in Russia’s timber and construction industries. According to the Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai, the employment of North Korean laborers in Russia is their major source of foreign currency.

russia and north korea trading
North Korea Trading Despite Sanctions [Image by Eric Talmadge/AP Images]

Furthermore, a Russian company, Investstroytrest, opened a new ferry line in May connecting the Russian port city of Vladivostok to the North Korean city of Rajin. Company’s deputy director Mikhail Khmel told Reuters that the ferry is aimed at Chinese tourists seeking to visit Vladivostok by sea. The ferry’s Russian operators said it is purely a commercial venture, but the service’s launch coincided with what some expert believed is an action by Kim Jong-un to build ties with Russia in case China turn its back.

“It’s our business, of our company, without any state subsidies, involvement and help,” Mikhail Khmel said.

Asked about the ferry, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that she “didn’t see a connection” between the new service and the ongoing political issues.

Relationship Between Russia And North Korea:

Back in 1948, there were diplomatic relations between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. However, relations between them have loosened since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The relationship again grew stronger when Kim Jong-un accepted an invitation to visit Russia in 2014.

Following the January 2016 North Korean nuclear test, Russia officially supported a U.N. Security Council resolution regarding the introduction of further sanctions against North Korea. In response to Kim Jong-un’s orders to the military to deploy the nuclear warheads so they can be fired at any moment, Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said “the Kremlin is concerned over North Korea’s statements about its readiness to use nuclear forces and urges all states to display restraint,” TASS reported.

United Nations and North Korea:

As earlier reported today, North Korea rejected United Nations’ sanctions. The U.N. Security Council call for reducing trade with North Korea in retaliation for two nuclear detonations in 2016 and Kim’s recent ballistic missile tests. The Security Council issued a unanimous statement on May 21 that vowed to impose new sanctions on North Korea if it fails to back down from using their missiles.

President Donald Trump has pressed China, North Korea’s chief political and economic benefactor, to use its $6.6 billion in annual trade with the hermit state as leverage to stop North Korea’s weapons development. But the recent Russian deals with Kim would negate all the work done by the Chinese government.

The recent Russian trade activities with the North Korea fits into Russia’s thinking about the hermit state, said James Brown, an associate professor at Temple University’s Tokyo campus.

“They don’t want to isolate North Korea. They want to enable North Korea to be able to continue to conduct activities with the rest of the world,” Brown said. “They’re against the North Korean nuclear program…. But the Russians also are more sympathetic toward North Korea.”

north korea latest missile test
[Image by Wong Maye-E/AP Images]

He added: “[North Korea] forced to act in that way because of aggressive actions by South Korea and the United States, by having exercises and military drills and sending the aircraft carrier and those type of things.”

On the other hand, even President Putin believes that Kim’s missile test are dangerous.

“We need to return to dialogue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, stop intimidating it and find ways to solve these problems peacefully,” Putin said.

As of this writing, the Russia’s trade with North Korea appears to be rising at $130 million annually, it is still a slim amount compared to China’s $6.6 billion in annual trade. Marcus Noland, director of studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said that even if Russia’s trade with North Korea is quite low, “it is plausible that Russia will try to increase trade to increase its geopolitical influence.”

[Featured Image by Mikhail Metzel/TASS News Agency Pool Photo/AP Images and Wong Maye-E/AP Images]