Making Sense of the Russo-North Korean Rapprochement

Although the six-party process about North Korean nuclearization is moribund if not dead, ongoing informal discussions among those parties are robust and ever evolving. Because these multi-party relationships are so protean, they force us to devise an analytic framework for them. After all, these talks are about much more than Korean denuclearization. They represent an embryonic or miniature version of the multipolarity that characterizes contemporary Asian international relations. In addition to nonproliferation, they are really about the relationships among the key actors in East Asia, the future of both Koreas, and the shape of the regional, if not Asian, order.

To understand relationships among these six actors, notably the recent Russo-DPRK rapprochement, we cannot ignore the fact that each actor acutely grasps the larger issues at play here as well as his individual state’s interests. We may visualize interrelationships among the six actors as a dynamic 5+1 game, where each move any actor makes affecting another one immediately alters the dynamics affecting the relations among all the others, forcing them to adjust accordingly. Thus, the process becomes a kind of perpetual motion, where any new rapprochement among two or more players drives the others to act in turn, thus generating a new pattern. The Russo-DPRK rapprochement fits that pattern for it grew out of Russia’s particular interests in the Korean Peninsula and overall position in Asia as well as North Korea’s perception of its larger relationships among the other players.

The Russo-DPRK Rapprochement: Origins

It began in 2011, growing out of the tensions of 2010 from namely the Cheonan incident and DPRK’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. These incidents injured Russian interests by raising tensions near its borders, causing the suspension of the Six-Party Talks, the only venue where Moscow could formally assert itself in the region, and severely strained relations with both Koreas, the United States, and China. War on the peninsula would be disastrous to Russia, raising the possibility of: a Sino-American clash on its frontier, potential nuclear strikes, state collapse in North Korea with uncertain command and control over nuclear weapons, refugees, and complete disruption of large-scale Northeast Asian investment and technology transfer into the Russian economy. Actions that generate heightened tensions or outright conflict must be avoided at all costs, Russians decided,1 as seen in a 2010 article quoting Chinese analyst Zhou Feng, who starkly underlined the dangers of war.

The aggravation of the North Korean nuclear issue is one of the long standing problems leading to new ones. This issue cannot be expected to be settled easily because difficulties have emerged in relations among large East Asian states. The settlement process can subsequently lead to a redistribution of roles of large states on the Asian political field— that is a new regional security problem.2

Due to Russia’s weakness in Asia, restructuring of the Asian political order could easily occur at Russia’s expense and by means over which Russia has little or no influence. While Moscow has long said that it does not fear Korean unification and might actually welcome that outcome, it could only do so if it happened through a peaceful process, not war.3

In September 2010, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin, Moscow’s delegate to the talks, said that the Korean Peninsula was on the brink of war.4 A major conflict might break out affecting Russia’s vital interests when it has little or no leverage over any of the players and, therefore, cannot safeguard itself. Facing marginalization both in the talks and to some degree regionally despite having stakes there, Russia saw this as reflecting not so much an identity of approaches with China but rather the fact that everyone looked to China not Russia for solutions.

Therefore, Moscow launched its 2011 initiative to bring Kim Jong-il to Russia and win his assent for the longstanding Russian program of a Trans-Siberian-Trans-Korean gas pipeline and railway (TSR-TKR). Although he agreed to these proposals, his death in December 2011 suspended everything. Having made no progress by late 2013, President Putin, while visiting Seoul, warned Pyongyang that if it did not respond, Moscow might move unilaterally with Seoul, even sending Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to Seoul to discuss new arms sales to South Korea.5 However, Aleksandr’ Zhebin pointed out that North Korea had often disregarded Russian interests, and that this was happening again with its nuclear and missile programs. These processes created crises that almost approached in intensity the Cuban missile crisis (a red flag to any Russian writer). Consequently, North Korea’s policies could trigger the “most unexpected developments.” Zhebin also argued that for North Korea, it is still important to demonstrate the existence of the “Moscow alternative to the United States and its allies and also to China,” indicating that he sees Russia pursuing Korean objectives that are distinct from both of these states. He warned Pyongyang that, “The degree of support and understanding that the DPRK can expect from Russia must clearly be directly proportionate to Pyongyang’s readiness to consult with Moscow on questions directly affecting our security interests.”6 This warning reflected the Russian government and analytical community’s chagrin at North Korea’s disregard for Russia’s vital interests and their alarm that North Korean nuclear and space satellite tests and generally provocative behavior could generate risk-taking that threatened these interests. Aggravating the situation was the fact that Moscow had no influence over North Korea’s behavior.7

By 2013, Russia aimed to assert its independent status as a major potential contributor to stabilization on the Korean Peninsula, to prevent a war or direct involvement in a Sino-American rivalry, and to avoid marginalization by standing apart from the joint-Sino-American effort to restrain North Korea that developed after the 2013 Sino-American summit in California. The Korean Peninsula’s increasing importance to Putin’s “pivot to Asia” lay in the fact that Moscow thought it could and felt it must make gains here lest it be excluded by its supposed Chinese partner and its American rival. Even though Russia and China regularly proclaim the identity of their interests, arguably this identity exists at the global level of relations with Washington, while at the regional level we actually see more rivalry and discord. Moscow’s standing and capabilities have also grown steadily weaker from the point of view of Central Asia to Japan if not also Korea.8 Furthermore, Russia’s self-assertion as an independent great Asian power is partly driven by its desire to reduce America’s global and regional power.

Russian Motives

As Bobo Lo argues, containing and counterbalancing the United States is a fundamental motive of Russian foreign policy everywhere, not least of all in Asia. While some of this sentiment derives from the visceral and manipulated anti-Americanism of 2000-2015, its roots lie in the elite perception that “Russia can reassert itself as a global great power only if it is able to limit American influence.” Therefore, Moscow identifies with China on an anti-American and anti-liberal program in Asia, despite its mounting concern about rising Chinese power, and seeks its own line of influence in North Korea, as seen in the 2011 summit with Kim Jong-il.9 Meanwhile, Russian analysts, if not officials, see South Korea’s 2008-2013 harder line and US policies as being primarily responsible for North Korea’s admitted adventurism and believe Washington still seeks regime change under the guise of coerced denuclearization.10 They blame Washington and Seoul as much if not more than Pyongyang for the impasse since 2010, wont to find more fault in America especially given the deterioration of East-West relations since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,11 seeing it as continuing to frustrate all efforts at inter-Korean diplomacy in lieu of a North Korean commitment to denuclearize. President Obama’s recent reckless statements that North Korea will ultimately collapse hardly change thinking in Moscow or Pyongyang.12

There is a second dimension to Russian policy. At the regional level, it consists of trying to free Russia from China’s shadow and, consonant with the drive to establish itself as a recognized great independent Asian actor, restrain China. These motives comport with those of other Asian states.13 China’s rising power has forced them to expand their own regional power and influence across Asia either to counter China or as the result of states’ natural tendency towards power-maximization. These processes generate a more multipolar Asia-Pacific that is more contentious with frequently shifting alignments and power dynamics and potential threats posed by a growing number of actors (not only states.) Since China is the central Asian actor, much of this diplomatic jockeying amounts to coalition-building against China as a hedge, just as Sino-US understandings on North Korea are a hedge against deterioration of that bilateral relationship and unforeseen North Korean threats.14 The rise in China’s power has begun to loom as a challenge if not threat to Russia’s “Ostpolitik” even as Russia, thanks to its reckless adventure in Ukraine, has slipped into ever greater dependency on and inability to compete with China, e.g. in Central Asia.15

While China’s rising power relative to all Asian actors, including Russia, affects all of them, it affects them differentially, which allows China to exploit its superior capabilities by enhancing technological and economic interdependence with those powers less concerned about a Chinese threat. This renders more vulnerable states increasingly susceptible to Chinese pressure.16 As Russia has become steadily more vulnerable to Chinese pressure in 2013-2014 (reflected in Chinese advances in Central Asia, economic leverage over Russia, membership as an observer in the Arctic Council, threats directed against Vietnam and Japan, and its ability to demand and obtain ever better weapons systems and technologies from Russian arms sellers), it possibly dawned on Moscow if not Russian analysts that following in China’s wake in North Korea was not an optimal policy.17 Clearly distancing itself from China, Moscow perceived an opening where it might advance regionally and promote long-held dreams of railway and pipeline projects.

As Victor Cha has written, Russia’s railway and pipeline proposals are the cornerstones of its negotiating position on the Korean crisis, in conditions where neither the US nor others see Russia’s presence in the six-party process as of importance. He characterizes Russia as the forgotten partner or bit player of “peripheral” importance.18 As such, its diplomats obsessively invoke the idea of a gas pipeline and railway as the solution to any problem in these talks that would also reestablish Russia’s influence in North Korea. Similar to others in this process, Russia has few means of leverage on North Korea, while also suffering from two fundamental disadvantages. First, if the parties actually reached a meaningful rapprochement, Russia’s relevance to the outcome would steadily decline.19 To retain enduring influence upon either or both Koreas, agreement on this pipeline would have to precede any general agreement. Second, if the pipeline deal collapses, however, it is a clear demonstration of Russia’s lack of leverage, and Russia will lose face. On the other hand, the DPRK can, by its actions, wreak enormous “collateral damage” upon Russia and its interests. As Cha suggests, absent such an agreement, Russia will lose even the influence it now has, which is dangerous given its lack of leverage over North Korea and North Korea’s capacity to generate “collateral damage” without Moscow being able to respond, much as Zhebin has warned.20

Russian Policy in a Broader Context

Arguably, in 2013 Russia felt marginalized by Sino-American cooperation to pressure the DPRK and DPRK refusal to commit itself to Russian proposals—hence, Putin’s threats to abandon North Korea. Given Pyongyang’s falling out with China and habitual instinct to exploit Sino-Russian tensions, this ultimatum actually offered it a lifeline that it promptly seized, leading to a series of high-level meetings, economic agreements, and the invitation to Kim Jong-un to attend the VE day celebrations in Moscow in May 2015.21 Having also invited President Park Geun-hye, Moscow apparently hopes to stage an inter-Korean summit and reap the benefits.22

The disjuncture between the global and regional aspects of Russo-Chinese relations was explicitly invoked in Putin’s July 1, 2014 speech to Russian ambassadors. On the one hand, Putin proclaimed Sino-Russian relations as a kind of example for others to follow.

We need to strengthen overall partnership and strategic cooperation with the People’s Republic of China. We can say that a strong Russian-Chinese connection has taken shape on the international arena. It is based on a coincidence of views on both global processes and key regional issues. It is of primary importance that Russian-Chinese friendship is not directed against anyone: we are not creating any military unions. On the contrary, this is an example of equal, respectful and productive cooperation between states in the twenty-first century.23

Yet, Putin emphatically demanded an independent and stronger Russian policy in Asia, implicitly contradicting the belief that Russo-Chinese relations are a paragon of international relations.

We also need to continue strengthening the eastern vector of our diplomacy, to more intensively use the impressive potential of the Asia-Pacific region in the interests of the further development of our country, primarily, of course, of Siberia and the Far East. We should continue to direct Russia’s policy in Asia and the Pacific at maintaining the security of our eastern borders and at supporting peace and stability in the region. The coming leadership of Russia in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the SCO and BRICS summits to be held in Ufa in the summer of 2015 work to support this. We intend to further develop our relations with our traditional partners in this area of the world; with India and Vietnam, who are playing an ever-greater role in the world; with Japan and other countries, including the ASEAN states.24

Russian analysts have long argued that Beijing might sell Russia out to Washington and advocated a more independent line towards Korea. Georgy Toloraya and Aleksandr Vorontsov in particular maintain that the mere fact of Sino-American collaboration on UN resolution 1718 in 2012 to prohibit North Korean nuclear and missile tests represent an unpleasant surprise for Russia. They speculate about a deal where Beijing would “surrender” Pyongyang to Washington in return for reduced US support for Japan over the Senkaku Islands—a collaboration that makes Russia’s position look bizarre. Consequently, Russia can no longer afford to let China lead the two governments’ policy on North Korea.25

When North Korea offered exclusive terms to Russian investors to support priority projects in 2014, Aleksandr Galushka, minister for the Development of the Far East and the chairman of the Inter-Governmental Committee for Cooperation, Trade, Economics, Science, and Technology, emphasized that Chinese investors do not enjoy these benefits, clearly signaling rivalry with China.26 Toloraya and Vorontsov openly advocate overt competition with China here rather than the previous passivity that they argue prevents Russia from realizing its regional goals in Asia.

This kind of behavior will not contribute to a more active Russian policy in the Asia-Pacific region, where people closely follow Russia’s reactions to crisis situations and draw their conclu sions accordingly. The cooling in relations between North Korea and China over the Chang Song-thaek affair gives Russian diplomats an opportunity to cultivate closer relations with the elite in Pyongyang. With a new generation just having come to power in Beijing too, a warming in relations between China and its unpredictable neighbor is unlikely in the near future. This gives Russia a “window of opportunity” to establish a more trusting relationship with Kim Jong-un and his new leadership, using traditional diplomatic methods, economic levers, and “soft power.”27

This example illustrates Moscow’s ingrained paranoia concerning the constant danger of abandonment or even betrayal that lurks underneath the supposedly halcyon Sino-Russian relationship. Despite the deep estrangement with Washington and the West prompted by Ukraine, Russian officials still desire to work with Washington lest Russia be isolated. Similarly, Xi Jinping reminds his American and Chinese interlocutors that conflict with America would be disastrous for China.28

Another regional aspect of the Sino-Russian dyad is that neither side wants either the other or Washington to succeed more than they do in dealing with a common challenge if not threat, e.g. North Korea’s nuclearization. In 2009, when President Bill Clinton attempted to obtain the release of US prisoners from North Korea, Russian commentary asserted that Clinton’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il actually represents a form of bilateral bargaining. This press report then argued that:

In China, influential analysts clearly had a negative attitude toward Washington’s possible rejection of the multilateral approach to resolving the North Korean nuclear conundrum. ‘I think the United States should decisively reject bilateral talks. This position will not be accepted by the countries of East Asia,’ Zhang Liangui, an expert in Korean affairs at the Central Party School in Beijing said. Zhang’s colleagues explain that the PRC would, with matters panning out this way, be moved into the background, and this is unacceptable to Beijing Russia has also said more than once that the path to freeing the Korean Peninsula from nuclear weapons lies through six party talks. The reaction of the Russia Federation Foreign Ministry to the former head of the White House’s visit is not yet known.29

Here again, Sino-Russian regional competition coexists with a shared desire to prevent US unilateral activity, but that rivalry undermines the benefits of agreeing to curtail Washington’s global role and leaves a situation that unanimously puts vital interests of all three states at risk and in a state of unmitigated tension, which benefits nobody. Regional discord between Moscow and Beijing weakens their global and bilateral partnership.

North Korean Motives

North Korea, too, reacts to the imperatives generated by the rise of China, the seeming Sino-American collaboration, and the dynamism of Asian international relations. Kim Jong-un learned from his predecessors the need to exploit Sino-Russian tensions. His father exploited this rivalry in the 2011 accords with Russia to get more Chinese military aid. One classic way to react to disappointment with China is to upgrade ties with Russia. Thus, China’s announcement that it would strengthen military ties and practical, though unspecified, exchanges with North Korea that nullified its previous refusal to do so in 2011 probably owed something to Russia’s earlier success in August 2011.30

We should avoid thinking that China can or will “deliver” North Korea. The last few years exemplify resistance by an Asian state to China’s effort to use its power more openly than before, and the results are not encouraging. China’s influence upon North Korea’s economy was already predominant by 2011 and, if anything, has subsequently grown.31 North Korean officials clearly resent this dependence, which contradicts the autarchic Juche ideology, even though Chinese assistance and support for the succession to Kim Jong-il was necessary.32 Pressure from Jang Song-thaek to reform along Chinese lines may have also helped generate the recent North Korean purges that angered Beijing. Much of this erosion in Sino-DPRK relations may be connected to the purge of Jang Song-thaek, probably the point man for Sino-DPRK relations, and to the nuclear and missile tests of 2013. This purge has deprived North Korea of a valued interlocutor with China and alarmed Chinese concerning the trajectory of its policies, since it no longer has a strong, experienced hand at the till in Sino-DPRK relations.34

North Korea’s turn towards Russia, as well as its talks with Japan, is, to some degree, bound up with both nations’ respective tensions with China. Arguably, despite the professed identity of Sino-Russian positions on many issues, North Korea assumes the existence of and is, therefore, exploiting a latent Sino-Russian rivalry in Northeast Asia. This is presumably driven by mutual suspicion and heightened mistrust in Sino-North Korean relations,35 as also observed by Chinese analysts. Zhang Liangui noted that because North Korea’s relations with China, Russia, and the United States “have remained at a standstill,” the DPRK has consequently “shifted its focus to Japan and the ROK.” However mistaken he may be about Russia and, in retrospect, the ROK and even Japan, the visible deterioration of North Korean-Chinese relations has apparently had many causes and manifestations. As Sangsoo Lee reported in 2014:

Whereas the North Korean regime’s durability has owed much to China’s support, Pyongyang has long feared becoming overly dependent on Beijing. Xi Jinping’s relatively “hard” stance towards North Korea after the country’s third nuclear test, among other signs of cooling relations, has illuminated the growing distrust between the two countries. As such, China’s customary provision of financial support to the DPRK has significantly decreased. On April 24, the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) revealed that oil exports (based on Chinese customs data) from China to North Korea stood at “zero” for the first quarter of 2014. While not verified, it is likely that China cut oil supplies for a while as a way of exerting pressure on Pyongyang not to conduct a fourth nuclear test.37

North Korea subsequently imposed restrictions on Chinese traders doing business in North Korea so that they are allowed just one visit for 15 days a year.38

Pyongyang’s provocative missile and nuclear tests not only solidify the US-ROK alliance that Beijing wants to attenuate, they also justify the missile defense program of Japan and the United States and facilitate enhanced trilateral US-ROK-Japan cooperation, reducing China’s opportunities to exploit ROK-Japanese tensions. Moreover, they disregard China’s own interests and defy China’s continuing efforts to settle the nuclear issue and persuade North Korea of the desirability of major domestic reforms.

Even analysts who dispute that relations have cooled between Beijing and Pyongyang concede that there has been much speculation that China is rethinking its policy, and that the DPRK has become a source of immense frustration to it.39 Those analysts who argue that for strategic and political reasons, despite frustrations, Beijing will never abandon Pyongyang, hardly characterize the relationship in positive terms. One recent study says the two states are locked in a mutual hostage relationship, and that North Korea’s 2013 missile and nuclear tests greatly angered China.40 Other analyses pointing to the erosion of the relationship argue that Beijing has formally downgraded ties by conducting them through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rather than inter-party organizations, supported UN sanctions against North Korea, harshly criticized the 2013 tests, and tightened customs procedures to disrupt the transfer of Chinese dual-use items that might benefit North Korea’s nuclear program.41 They charge that North Korean “brinksmanship” disrupts China’s security environment, strengthens US-ROK-Japanese military collaboration and disrespects China by ignoring warnings not to test nuclear weapons. They even speculated that North Korea might be losing its strategic value for China.

While there is a debate in China on North Korea, it is rash to say that North Korea is losing its strategic value or that China will abandon the careful and multi-dimensional strategy it has followed since at least 2009 to sustain North Korea and to use the six-party process, if not for nuclear disarmament than for the process of mitigating the many risks in this region.42 The evidence of diplomatic and economic moves among the six parties strongly points to growing estrangement between Pyongyang and Beijing. Liu Jianchao, assistant minister of foreign affairs, recently told correspondents that China does not have a military alliance with North Korea and that, on principle, it does not conclude military alliances with any other country.43 This public declaration may only further irritate North Korea.

A South Korean website run by defectors from North Korea has argued that the DPRK government decreed in April 2014 that its elites should ”abandon the Chinese dream,” accusing the Chinese government and party of being selfish, renouncing ideology, being critical of North Korea’s self-defense capabilities, and being in bed with the imperialists. Allegedly this led to an edict ordering state sanctioned trading companies to decrease trade with China and increase trade with and flights to and from Russia.44 It apparently was accompanied by a press campaign to emphasize Juche ideology that warns against “the pressure from big countries.”45 If true, this would go far to explain why North Korea signed all these accords with Russia, even as it is unwilling to make its decisions public, leaving it to Moscow to announce these deals. This would confirm our argument that the Russo-North Korean rapprochement meets the interests of both sides, as tenser Sino-DPRK ties drive North Korea to seek not only to balance China in its overall foreign relations, but to play the time-tested game of leaning towards other powers to obtain diplomatic and economic support.46

These DPRK gambits confirm Luttwak’s observation that China’s aggressive policies drive Asian states, including North Korea, to find new ways of collaborating to check those policies.47 Yet, North Korea can still count on China to uphold certain of its vital interests because they also comport with China’s longstanding perception of North Korea as a vital strategic buffer that it must support despite repeated bad behavior. Thus, both China and Russia advocate speedier resumption of the Six-Party Talks on the basis of Pyongyang’s demand for no preconditions—a non-starter for the other parties—, and China insists on not excluding North Korea.

A similar logic appears to be working in Pyongyang’s concurrent efforts to improve ties with Japan, even though the scope for doing so is more limited.48 Not only would this show China it cannot boss North Korea around and that Pyongyang has other options, it would also inflame Japanese-South Korean tensions, frustrating allied cohesion against Pyongyang.49 Both Moscow and Pyongyang would dearly like to rupture US alliance bonds and arrange a bilateral or inter-Korean summit in Moscow, excluding the United States; Moscow needs all the diplomatic support it can get, especially in Asia. Furthermore, North Korea and Russia hope to expand the scope of Russia’s economic presence in North Korea. For Pyongyang, this would keep Russia in its corner, balance China, and help it avert reform, while Russia stands to gain access to North Korea’s rare earth minerals and to continue pushing its pipeline and railroad plans.50


The logic of hedging and efforts to build coalitions to use but also confine China’s rising power and capabilities is clearly a shared Russo-DPRK interest. Both states also crave a fully independent status in Asia, though North Korea cannot and does not expect to play a great power role. Yet, their actions add to tensions as Moscow’s anti-Americanism permits North Korea to continue its military buildup, secure in the fact that both China and Russia, despite their regional rivalries, will preserve the “northern alliance” against Washington and its allies and give it space, if not resources, to proceed.51 A similar logic can also explain both states’ ongoing efforts to improve relations with Japan. Not only do they join Japan in chafing at Chinese power, they also stand to make handsome economic gains if they can move Japan closer to their viewpoint.

We can duly expect that this kind of maneuvering and the 5+1 game as well as the larger Asian patterns of hedging and balancing alongside self-assertion will continue. In North Korea’s case, China apparently has gotten the message and is ready to move towards improving relations, despite all the insults it has had to swallow.52 Neither will it give up the Russian card that has been of such immense value to it, especially as Russia’s isolation forces it into ever-greater dependence on China in Central Asia and on issues like arms sales and the bilateral energy and economic relationship.53 Russia, too, will continue playing this game in the belief that it actually is making gains in Asia, but such beliefs are a delusion as are the pretenses of its officials and ambassadors that Moscow needs support but not help from China. Moscow may be able to maneuver in the six-party process, but China will not rupture ties with Washington simply to please Russia. Signs of the revitalization of US alliances, e.g. in the intelligence-sharing accord with Tokyo and Seoul, are likely to grow, especially as American economic and thus military power rebound.55 It is unlikely that North Korea has changed its strategic course significantly. Indeed, it sought to obtain the advanced Russian fighter SU-35 jet in November 2014 just as it similarly sought and failed to obtain Chinese fighter jets in 2010.56 Recent articles are again calling for a “military-first” policy line.57

By invading Ukraine, Moscow may have sealed its regional fate in Asia for as long as it sees regional security issues through an American prism. Consequently, it will have to depend on China, fundamentally contradicting the drive towards an independent great power status in Asia. But even if Russian leaders grasp this contradiction, they are trapped since Putin cannot withdraw from Ukraine without risking his power and system. Russia and North Korea may make temporary gains, but they do so at the risk of losing the larger strategic contest. The price of realizing those larger issues and of acting to minimize the costs of past and present policies may take a long time. The longer that recognition and corrective action take, the greater will be the corresponding costs and risks of those remedial actions.


1. Stephen Blank, “Russia and the Six-Party Process in Korea,” in Korea Economic Institute, ed. Tomorrow’s Northeast Asia (Washington, DC: 2011), 207-226.

2. M. Nikolaev, “The Asia-Pacific Region and Russia’s National Security,” International Affairs 56, no. 3 (2010), 68-69.

3. Interfax, Open Source Center Foreign Broadcast Information Service Central Eurasia, (Henceforth FBIS SOV), September 24, 2007.

4. Andrew Osborn, “North and South Korea On the Brink of War, Russian Diplomat Warns,”, September 24, 2010,

5. “Vladimir Putin Took Part in the APEC CEO Summit”, October 7, 2013; “Russian President Addresses South Korea Business Forum,” FBIS SOV, November 13, 2013,; Interfax, FBIS SOV, November 12, 2013; Yonhap, FBIS SOV, November 12, 2013.

6. Aleksandr’ Zhebin, “Russia-DPRK: People Do Not Choose Their Neighbors. Pyongyang Ready to Be Friends with Moscow Again,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta Online, October 14, 2013, FBIS SOV, October 14, 2013

7. Alexander Vorontsov and Georgy Toloraya, Military Alert on the Korean Peninsula: Time for Some Conclusions, Carnegie Moscow Center (June 2014): 19-25.

8. Stephen Blank, “Triangularism Old and New – China, Russia, and the United States” (presentation, “New Perspectives on Sino-Russian Relations” conference, Oslo, September 22-23, 2015).

9. Bobo Lo, “Russia: the Eastern Dimension,” in Piotr Dutkiewicz and Dmitri Trenin, ed. Russia: the Challenges of Transformation (New York: Social Sciences Research Council and New York University Press, 2011), 361; see also Vladimir Shlapentokh, “Are Today’s Authoritarian Leaders Doomed to Be Indicted When They Leave Office? The Russian and Other Post-Soviet Cases,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 39, no. 2 (Autumn 2006): 462-63; Cathy Young, “From Russia With Loathing,” The New York Times, November 21, 2008; Fedor Lukyanov, “Political No-Road Map,”, FBIS SOV, April 3, 2008; Mikhail Tsypkin, “Russian Politics, Policy-Making and American Missile Defence,” International Affairs 85, no. 4 (2009), 784-787.

10. Georgy Toloraya, “The Security Crisis in Korea and Its International Context: Sources and Lessons from a Russian Perspective,” Korean Journal of Defense Analysis 23, no. 3 (September 2011), 346-347.

11. Aleksandr’ Zakharovich Zhebin, “Not to Miss an Opportunity for Detente on the Korean Peninsula: United States Not interested in Pyongyang’s Moratorium,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta Online, FBIS SOV, January 20, 2015.

12. Kyodo World Service, FBIS SOV, January 23, 2015.

13. Edward N. Luttwak, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy (Cambridge, MA and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012); and Van Jackson, “The Rise and Persistence of Strategic Hedging Across Asia: a System-Level Analysis,” in Ashley J. Tellis, Abraham M. Denmark, and Greg Chaffin, ed. U.S. Alliances and Partnerships at the Center of Global Power (Seattle: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2014), 317-342.

14. Richard J. Ellings, “Preface,” in Ashley J. Tellis, Abraham M. Denmark, and Greg Chaffin, ed. U.S. Alliances and Partnerships at the Center of Global Power, x.

15. Alina Terekhova, “Moskva distantsiruetsia ot Kitaiskogo proekta novogo shelkovogo puti,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 20, 2015; Paul Goble, “Ruble’s Decline Seen Helping China to Supplant Russia As Dominant Power in Central Asia,” Window on Eurasia New Series, January 17, 2015.

16. Ashley J. Tellis, “Seeking Alliances and Partnerships: The Long Road to Confederationism in U.S. Strategy,” in Ashley J. Tellis, Abraham M. Denmark, and Greg Chaffin, ed. U.S. Alliances and Partnerships At the Center of Global Power, 19.

17. Stephen Blank, “Russo-Chinese Relations in Strategic Perspective,” The Asan Forum 2, no. 2 (April 11, 2014).

18. Victor Cha, The Impossible State: North Korea Past and Future (New York: Harper Collins Books, 2013), 345-369.

19. FBIS SOV, November 29, 2011; Victor Cha, The Impossible State, 345-369.

20. FBIS SOV, October 14, 2013.

21. “Russia Says North Korea Sent Positive Signal On Kim Visit in May,” Reuters, January 21, 2015.

22. Georgy Toloraya, “Kim Jong Un’s Diplomatic Debut: a View From Russia,”, January 22, 2015.

23. “Conference of Russian Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives,” July 1, 2014,

24. Ibid.

25. Alexander Vorontsov and Georgy Toloraya, Military Alert on the Korean Peninsula, 21 and 27-28.

26. Interfax, FBIS SOV, June 5, 2014 (CER2014060530021881).

27. Alexander Vorontsov and Georgy Toloraya, Military Alert on the Korean Peninsula, 27-28.

28. Neil MacFarquhar, “Putin Angling to Restore Ties With the West While Keeping an Eye on Ukraine,” The New York Times, July 11, 2014; Simon Denyer, “U.S., China Try to Emphasize Potential for Cooperation,” The Washington Post, July 9, 2014.

29. Vladimir Skosyrev, “Clinton’s Success Could Split the Six,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta Online, FBIS SOV, August 9, 2009.

30. “China to Boost Military Ties with North Korea,” Straits Times, November 19, 2011, C8.

31. L. Zakharova, “North Korea’s International Economic Ties in the 21st Century and Prospects For Their Development Under Kim Jong Un,” Far Eastern Affairs 41, no. 3 (2013), 131-138.

32. Snyder; Seung-Yul Oh, “China’s Strategic Shift and North Korea’s Open Door to China Policy,” EAI Issue Briefing, no. MASI 2011-05, (September 6, 2011), 5.

33. “Analysis: North Korean Execution Points to Instability, Wide Purge,” BBC Monitoring, December 12, 2013; Choe Sang-Hun, “Execution Raises Doubts about Kim’s Grip on North Korea,” The New York Times, December 13, 2013.

34. Mathieu Duchatel and Phillip Schell, China’s Policy on North Korea: Economic Engagement and Nuclear Disarmament (Stockholm, SIPRI, 2014), 18; Han Sukhee, “China’s Charm Offensive to Korea: A New Approach to Extend the Strategic Buffer,” The Asan Forum 2, no. 3 (June 13, 2014).

35. Choe Sang-Hun, “North Korea Fires 2 Missiles in Defiance of a U.N. Ban,” The New York Times, June 30, 2014.

36. Yazhou zhoukan Online, April 20, 2014; FBIS SOV, May 12, 2014.

37. Sangsoo Lee, “North Korea’s Diversifying Diplomatic Ties,” Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm, Policy Brief, no. 157 (June 26, 2014), 2.

38. Ibid; Yonhap, June 16, 2014; FBIS SOV, June 26, 2014.

39. Andrew Scobell and Mark Cozad, “China’s North Korea Policy: Rethink or Recharge,” Parameters 44, no. 1 (Spring 2014), 52.

40. Christopher K. Johnson with Ernest Z. Bower, Victor D. Cha, Michael J. Green, and Matthew P. Goodman, Decoding China’s Emerging “Great Power” Strategy in Asia, (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2014), 35-36.

41. JoongAng Daily Online, June 25, 2014; FBIS SOV, June 25, 2014; Ippei Kamae, Virginia Marantidou, and Nanae Yamashiro, “Keeping Stability in the Peninsula: Old Problems, New Dynamics,” Issues & Insights 14, no. 6 (2013), 20-21.

42. Mathieu Duchatel and Phillip Schell, China’s Policy on North Korea.

43. Yonhap, FBIS SOV, May 27, 2014; Interfax, FBIS SOV, May 20, 2014; JoongAng Daily Online, FBIS SOV, June 19, 2014.

44. New Focus, June 2, 2014; FBIS SOV, June 5, 2014.

45. Choe Sang-Hun, “North Korea Fires 2 Missiles in Defiance of a U.N. Ban.”

46. Sangsoo Lee, “North Korea’s Diversifying Diplomatic Ties,” Institute for Security and Development Policy, Policy Brief, no. 157 (June 26, 2014), 2.

47. Edward N. Luttwak, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy.

48. Jung-Chul Lee, “Making Sense of North Korea,”, January 21, 2015.

49. Sukjoon Yoon, “A Trilateral Intelligence Sharing Accord Between Japan, Korea, and the United States: Implications and Challenges,” Pacnet 6a, 2015,, January 22, 2015.

50. Georgy Toloraya, “Kim Jong Un’s Diplomatic Debut: a View From Russia.”

51 Seongji Woo, “Pyongyang and the World: North Korean Perspectives on International Relations Under Kim Jong-il,” Pacific Focus 36, no. 2 (August, 2011), 196.

52. Yonhap, January 9, 2015; FBIS SOV, January 9, 2015.

53. Stephen Blank, “Russo-Chinese Relations in Strategic Perspective.”

54. “Interview By Ambassador to China Andrei Denisov With the Chinese Newspaper Global Times,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, FBIS SOV, January 19, 2015.

55. Sukjoon Yoon, “A Trilateral Intelligence Sharing Accord Between Japan, Korea, and the United States.”

56 JoongAngDaily Online, January 8, 2015; FBIS SOV, January 8, 2015.

57. Rodong Shimbun Online, January 5, 2015; FBIS SOV, January 19, 2015.