Nuclear disarmament, US sanctions, economics: In none of the thematic areas is anything concrete to be expected from the meeting between the Russian head of state and North Korea's rulers. Why the Vladivostok Summit still matters.
Concrete results are not expected from the summit of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok. For negotiations on nuclear disarmament, the Russian president is the wrong address. While the US insists on a swift and complete denuclearization, Putin also wants a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. But she has no high priority for him. Certainly not, as long as US troops are in South Korea.
Putin can not dispose of the relaxation of UN economic sanctions, Kim's most urgent concern – at least not officially, and the decisions of the Security Council tie him up. Besides, Kim already knows Moscow on his side on this issue anyway; Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has already called for the economic embargo to be relaxed. At least sporadically private company also already secretly shift oil from Russia to North Korea. Whether with the toleration of Moscow happens is not known. Officially, Russia adheres to the sanctions.
Kim can present himself on the international stage
There are no results to be expected from the third theme that Putin and Kim are talking about, more economic cooperation. Their two economies are too similar, they have little to offer each other. Russia's most important exports are oil and gas; those of North Korea were until the sanctions tightened, coal and commodities. What North Korea needs are modern, highly industrialized partners who are seeking a cheap manufacturing base and helping to build its ailing infrastructure. The only promising large-scale project that could propel Kim and Putin forward would be the connection of the South Korean railway to the Trans-Siberian railway, which was already being planned by North Korea. This link would allow South Korea's industry to send its exports to Europe by rail. That would be cheaper and faster than the sea route. Thereupon Putin aimed his appeal for tripartite cooperation between Russia and both Koreas. But for the time being, the sanctions on Moscow forbid any new joint economic projects with Pyongyang.
Nevertheless, the Vladivostok Summit has relevance. The meeting offers Kim, who until recently was completely isolated, the next opportunity to present himself as head of state on the international stage. Also to his audience at home. He is a conversation partner of the greats of this world. At the same time the two normalize the complex relations of their countries. In small steps, North Korea, so far a blind spot on the map of Northeast Asia, is becoming an almost normal neighbor. Only to Japan Pyongyang has no wire. But that's not just Kim.
In addition, Kim demonstrates to US President Donald Trump that he has alternatives to dialogue with Washington. While Russia may not be an attractive alternative, if Trump eventually tries to force North Korea to its knees with sanctions and military threats, they will lose credibility when Kim is laughingly photographed with Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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