Vladivostok’s Eastern Economic Forum: what progress on North Korea?

It is nevertheless not enough to have North Korea, Russia and South Korea on more-or-less the same page when it comes to engaging in three-way commercial undertakings.

Song Young-gil, a former special presidential envoy to Russia, recently stated in an interview that trilateral cooperation between the DPRK, Russia and South Korea will require convincing the United States to give its assent.

Washington, however, does not appear to be in the mood to ease legal restrictions on the DPRK’s economic activities, especially not with Russia. In August, U.S. authorities slapped sanctions on Russian individuals and entities for their ties to North Korean firms.

Ironically, even as sanctions are one of the very issues that undermines DPRK-Russia cooperation, they have simultaneously been a cause of alignment between Moscow and Pyongyang. Following her meeting with Kim Jong Un, Valentina Matvienko claimed that Kim wanted Russia’s help in mitigating the negative effects of sanctions.

Trilateral cooperation between the DPRK, Russia and South Korea will require convincing the United States to give its assent

On the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum, Russian deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov stated that Moscow would ask the UN Security Council to ease sanctions against the DPRK, citing what he believed were credible steps Pyongyang had been taking toward denuclearization.

Though neither the North Korean nor ROK heads of state were present at the Eastern Economic Forum, the presence of North Korean figures such as Kim Yong Jae shows that Pyongyang will not allow itself to be cut off from outside opportunities.

For Moscow, this is only good news. Russia’s progress in its relations with the DPRK could help Moscow carve out a more influential position for itself on the Korean peninsula independent of China.

No major breakthroughs in inter-Korean cooperation with Russia will occur after a single event such as the Eastern Economic Forum. Yet this year’s gathering in Vladivostok demonstrated that North Korea will continue reaching out to international partners.

Moscow, meanwhile, will not sit idly and let its influence in Asia diminish.  

Edited by Oliver Hotham

Featured image: EFF/TASS Photo

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