Lavrov Traveled to North Korea to 'Counterbalance' Washington's Belligerence in Asia
16:34 20.10.2023 (Updated: 19:10 20.10.2023)
The Russian Foreign Minister was on a visit in North Korea this week, from Wednesday to Thursday. The trip followed the September visit to Russia by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu's trip to Pyongyang in July.
Lavrov wrapped up a formal visit to North Korea on Thursday, with the two day-itinerary including talks with his North Korean counterpart Choe Son-hui, a meeting with Kim Jong Un, and several formal diplomatic events, including a flower laying ceremony before a monument in Pyongyang dedicated to the Red Army troops who smashed the Imperial Japanese Kwantung Army and liberated Korea in the closing days of World War II.
"The Russian Federation expresses its solidarity and full support in the desire of the DPRK, led by State Council Chairman Kim Jong Un, to defend its independence and the right of its people to determine their own destiny," Lavrov said after arriving in the North Korean capital on Wednesday.
The Russian top diplomat characterized his trip as "a very good opportunity" to "consider in detail each of the agreements that were reached at the highest level" during the talks at Vostochny Cosmodrome between Putin and Kim in September, "and to outline practical steps to ensure the full implementation of each of these agreements."
Meeting with Lavrov on Thursday, Kim remarked that the "real friendship" between Russia and North Korea was "growing stronger" after his meeting with Putin in the Russian Far East. "Our people pay great attention to the relations between our countries, and it is very pleasant to meet with you in such an occasion, Comrade Minister," Kim said.
At a reception in Lavrov's honor, Foreign Minister Choe expressed hope that his trip would help further expand the comprehensive and constructive ties between the two countries. Dropping hints on what this expanded cooperation may entail, Lavrov pointed to an upcoming meeting of the intergovernmental commission on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation in November, where plans to supply Russian energy and other goods to North Korea, as well as the possible implementation of new joint projects, will be discussed.
During their talks in September, Putin and Kim deliberated a bouquet of areas ripe for cooperation, from agriculture, aviation and infrastructure to education, space exploration and the environment, as well as a possible "logistics triangle" including railway, port and road infrastructure projects in North Korea. Putin also remarked at the time on the "opportunities" that exist for expanding military-technical cooperation, so long as it remains in line with existing restrictions.
Lavrov touched on the latter issue in an interview with Russian media on Thursday, dismissing "rumors" spread by the White House
and US media of a secret Russian-North Korean pact on the delivery of ammunition to Russia.
"You know, I don't comment on rumors. The fact that Americans constantly blame everyone for everything is not news. This is well known to everyone," Lavrov said. "As for the anger and panic" in the West over Russian-North Korean cooperation, the diplomat said he "doesn’t care" about that. "We are not friends with anyone against anyone else, but only for the sake of promoting mutually beneficial and interesting projects."
Russian Counterbalancing of US Belligerence in Asia
Commenting on Lavrov’s DPRK visit, veteran journalist, political analyst and Asia-Pacific geopolitics expert KJ Noh said it demonstrates a clear effort by Moscow to "counterbalance" Washington’s maneuvering and sabre rattling on the Korean peninsula and Asia generally.
"We see that South Korea and Japan are aligning with the United States, albeit they've always been client states, but now they’re coming together into a very, very clear military alliance. And most recently, South Korea sent 300,000 shells to Poland, and its ammunition company Hanwha is collaborating with Poland and putting extra capacity into the US war against Russia [in Ukraine, ed.]. So, on the other hand, Russia is simply counterbalancing with North Korea. And remember, North Korea and Russia have a very, very long history. They have had very, very good relations," Noh said, recalling that the ties go back to the very foundation of the North Korean state in 1948.
"Therefore, this is simply a reestablishment or a reaffirmation of historical political ties, as well as a counterbalancing
against the United States in the Asian [theater]," he added.
Characterizing Moscow’s diplomatic moves as "geostrategic rebalancing," Koh explained that essentially, Russia is merely pushing back against US efforts to constrain and contain it, and simultaneously sending a "message" Seoul's way to "stay in your lane" and not get involved in Washington’s proxy war against Russia in Europe.
"South Korea has always been a US client state, and anywhere the US goes to war, South Korea goes to war as well. That's almost always the case. Remember, South Korea sent 350,000 troops to the Vietnam War, and after 1972, South Korean troops outnumbered US troops 2 to 1. So South Korea is a very, very important force multiplier for the United States and its military adventures. And the Russians here are saying, 'Don't even think about it'" as far as escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific," Koh said, noting that the message is particularly important in the wake of the collapse of North Korean-US relations under the Biden administration.