Country Reports

On February 10, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs carried an Interfax interview with Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov on Russian Asia policies in the past year. He cited as the biggest event the May Sochi summit with the members of ASEAN. A second important event was carrying the entry of India and Pakistan into the SCO to the “finish line,” with possible entry in 2017. The third success he noted was the second Eastern Economic Forum in September in Vladivostok, where Abe and Park brought their countries closer to realizing large-scale projects in the Russian Far East. Also noted was Putin’s participation in the November APEC summit in Lima. Mention is made too of progress toward Greater Eurasia with the EEU, SCO, and ASEAN. While brief mention is made of a Sino-Russian agreement in November, more stress is placed on the Russo-Indo-Chinese troika. When pressed on joint economic activities with Japan, Morgulov mentions fishing and marine products, infrastructure, energy, construction, ecology, medicine, and tourism, as each side begins by listing potential projects on the islands, then discusses the legal basis for proceeding, which, he adds, must be in accordance with Russian law. The result of success here would be a positive atmosphere for searching for a resolution to the problems of concluding a peace treaty. Asked about the danger of increased tension over the DPRK, Morgulov responded, blaming the DPRK and its opponents who use its actions as a pretext for introducing new types of weapons into the region. He calls for a broad approach to the Korean Peninsula—denuclearization can only be achieved in the context of reduced confrontation, which Washington will not accept. In making this argument, Morgulov obscures Russia’s thinking about what would persuade Pyongyang, but presumes that it is ready to denuclearize on terms that Russia would find acceptable. This does not reflect the growing sense of threat of a nuclear attack or nuclear blackmail in the United States, any seriousness in treating the objectives of North Korea, or even the idea that the danger of conflict is growing rapidly. Somehow, Russia is assumed to be a force of reconciliation between the two adversaries without any clarity of how it can exert influence over North Korea. The claim is that Russia is ready for constructive cooperation in the interest of talks, but Washington and Pyongyang are not, ignoring repeated US efforts to restart talks.

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