August 1, 2023
SEOUL – Confrontation between the free world and authoritarian dictatorships seems to be growing acute on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea, China and Russia are revealing their solidarity plainly.
North Korea’s “Victory Day” event affirmed this.
On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice signed on July 27, 1953, China and Russia sent large delegations to Pyongyang for the event.
North Korea has denied the historical fact that it invaded South Korea, arguing to the contrary. It claims victory in the three-year war, celebrating the date of the armistice signing as Victory Day.
This time, as before, it held a military parade showing off diverse weapons.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Li Hongzhong flanked North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in the VIP stand to observe the parade.
This is a symbolic scene showing that China and Russia effectively protect North Korea, which has made nuclear and missile provocations continuously in violation of the United Nations resolutions. Pyongyang sent the message that it will respond to international political issues jointly with China and Russia. Shoigu and Li delivered personal letters from Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping to Kim, respectively.
North Korea invaded the South suddenly on June 25, 1950 after gaining approval from the then leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin. China then intervened in the war, prolonging it and causing the loss of many lives. The basic nature of relations among the three countries remains unchanged from that in 1950. North Korea routinely threatens South Korea with its nuclear weapons. China and Russia defend the North, even disregarding UN resolutions they previously supported.
It is irresponsible not only as permanent members of the UN Security Council but as members of the international community for the two countries to cover up for North Korea, rather than hold it accountable, even as it aggravates the security threat to the world.
In particular, the Russian defense minister’s visit to Pyongyang caught people’s attention because Russia is at war. The meaning of his visit is likely to go beyond friendship between the two countries. Kim gave Shoigu a tour of an arms exhibition.
Some observers in South Korea speculate that he may have visited Pyongyang to discuss importing North Korean weapons such as ammunition that Russia needs on the battlefields in Ukraine. Russia might have sought to receive ammunition and drones from the North, which might have demanded advanced weapons technology or food and energy in return.
If a direct trade for ammunition takes place between the two countries, it would be an obvious violation of related UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea. If Pyongyang receives funds through a secret deal with Moscow, not to mention weapons technology, the money will be certainly be used to develop nuclear missiles that can strike South Korea and the US.
Against this backdrop, South Korea, the United States and Japan are scheduled to hold a summit at Camp David near Washington on Aug. 18.
The meeting of the three leaders — US President Joe Biden, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida — to discuss how to respond to threats from North Korea is significant. It will be their first summit that is not held on the sidelines of an international event.
The Camp David summit needs to work out measures not only to strengthen the US’ strategy of extended deterrence against North Korea’s security threats but also to cope with the tightening unity of the three nuclear-armed autocratic countries.