RISS on perspectives of finding a diplomatic solution to the problem of development of the North Korean nuclear missile program

Escalation of tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, near the Korean Peninsula in particular, is a major focus of interest of international research centres and experts.

Specialists of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies also focus their attention on this issue. It is not only due to the strategic location of the region and its importance in terms of Russian interests but also for the fact that an explosive character of the situation in this region threatens the global security.

RISS Director M. Fradkov suggested that "Asian-Pacific direction today is one of the hottest in international relations. Unfortunately, it may appear that the region may literally become hot. What we see here is a snarl of potentially explosive issues, and we all need to join our forces to find peaceful solutions to them using only political means."

The situation in the region that we see today does not provide an opportunity to the parties to search for a well-measured and responsible course of actions. Nervousness and uncertainty are fostered by competing actions of the US that balance between diplomatic and heavy-handed approaches. Deployment of the missile defence system in the South Korea is a threatening rhetoric that is, while allowing for military invasion, also used along with diplomatic actions taken by Washington. The US is probably trying to use a carrot and a stick approach. In the meantime, the Americans are actively looking for a political consensus in order to restrain the North Korean nuclear missile program, thus, leaving a niche for a political solution.

Using a shuttle diplomacy the key figures in Trump’s administration are building ways for the US not only to make the North Korea stop its nuclear missile tests but also force Pyongyang to wind up its nuclear program. There are clear connection and concurrence between the meetings that the US Vice President Mike Pence had with Indonesian administration and ASEAN secretariat, and the United States Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin with key officials in Vietnam and Singapore. Telephone conversations between President Trump and Prime-Ministers of Thailand and Singapore were to fix preliminary results of the US diplomatic actions. Through his telephone call to the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Donald Trump demonstrated a support that the US are ready to provide to the Philippine leader. Mr Duterte had done a lot to deflect any explicit criticism of China by official representatives of ASEAN countries during the summit and focus their attention on assessment of the situation in the North Korea.

Washington does understand that it needs to engage China in the resolution of the issue on the Korean Peninsula, so it tries to build a dialogue with China supporting it with allied actions with ASEAN countries. With this in mind M. Fradkov points out that "Explicitly or not, the US are facilitating a construction of some sort of a new role of China in the process of finding a solution to international conflict situations. China is an inherent element of the complex system of security in the Asia-Pacific region. Moreover, the Americans begin to highlight China as their strategic partner."

Construction of the US-ASEAN-China axe dedicated to finding a solution to the issue on the Korean Peninsula is expected to be continued during the 30th dialogue between the US and ASEAN in Washington on 4 May. The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is to meet the ministers of foreign affairs of ASEAN countries during the event.

Russia also makes efforts to prevent further escalation of tensions and realisation of worst case scenario. Activation of high-level diplomatic connections between Russian and the US is a significant factor of a responsible solution to the issue of proliferation of nuclear weapons in Asia. Any heavy-handed solution may result in a larger conflict involving all countries in the region. According to M. Fradkov "It is extremely important to activate personal contacts between Russian and the US presidents during such critical moments in history like this one. Russian-American relations to a great extent identify the general level of security in the whole world."

Fradkov Korea ASEAN