Nobody puts little Rocket Man in a corner.
As we've noted time and time again, tensions between the US and North Korea have only intensified since Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed last month that the two countries were on the verge of a nuclear conflict, a warning that the North’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN echoed on Monday, but has so far done little to dent the rally in global stock markets.
But with Russia at least ostensibly reining in support for Kim Jong Un’s increasingly isolated regime, Putin inadvertently channeled the late, great Patrick Swayze during a speech at the annual Valdai Discussion Club meeting on Thursday when he warned that foreign powers should avoid "backing North Korea into a corner." Doing so would risk provoking a desperate, violent response, he said.
Putin added that the North is a “sovereign state” and reiterated his call that the standoff between the US and its regional allies and the Kim regime could only be resolved with dialogue – a solution that Russia and China – the North’s primary benefactor – have been pushing for months, NBC reported.
"Whether one likes the North Korean regime or not – it should not be forgotten that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a sovereign state. Any contradictions must be resolved in a civilized manner. Russia has always been calling for such approach," he said.
Since early August, the UN Security Council has passed two rounds of painful economic sanctions against the North – decisions that both China and Russia signed off on. Yet so far, there appears to be scant evidence that the sanctions are harming the North’s economy or its missile program as the North’s economy has long relied on arms sales and other illegal activities to generate badly needed foreign capital.
Unfortunately for the US, the sanctions appear to only have strengthened the North's resolve. Since they were implemented, the North has criticized President Donald Trump’s threatening rhetoric as tantamount to a declaration of war. It has also threatened to conduct a seventh nuclear test over the Pacific Ocean, to shoot down US jets that pass close to its airspace while also warning that a nuclear conflict could erupt any day.
Though he didn’t single out the US during his remarks about North Korea, he soon launched into a diatribe about US hypocrisy, citing its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and its noncompliance with the Prohibition on Chemical Weapons, Sputnik reported.
"As is known, in 2002, the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and, as initiators of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons… it initiated the agreement but does not fulfill its obligations," Putin said at the Valdai Discussion Club.
"The country remains the sole and most powerful possessor of that type [of weapons] of mass destruction. Moreover, the US moved the deadline for the destruction of its chemical weapons from 2007 to 2023. For a state proclaiming itself to be a champion in nonproliferation and arms control, it is inappropriate," he said.
The US recently dispatched the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier, to the waters east of the Korean Peninsula to participate in military drills with the South Korean Navy.
As one might expect, the North has decried the exercises as a threat of war, and promised retaliation. Russian media recently reported that the North is planning another missile test.
However, in a sign that the US might finally be listening to Russia and China’s advice, Trump reportedly told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to give talks another shot, after warning him earlier this month not to waste his time.
But the question remains to be seen: Can the two sides work out a truce that lead to a meaningful pause in the North’s nuclear program, while the US withdraws some of its military equipment (including its THAAD missile defense systems that make China, Russia and North Korea nervous)?