North Korea is perhaps the only rogue nation on planet Earth that dares standing up to the superpower United States of America. And Kim Jong-un is perhaps the only badass leader in the world who dares to challenge a U.S. Commander-in-Chief. In fact, Mr. Kim has already proven to the world – several times – that the U.S. isn’t at all that powerful or invincible.
But Mr. Kim could give Mr. Trump the middle finger all because the hermit kingdom possesses nuclear weapon. There’s nothing President Trump, supposedly the most powerful man in the world, could do unless the Americans are ready to start a Nuclear War I, Korean War II or possibly World War III. But judging by Trump’s reaction over Kim’s latest nuclear bomb test, the U.S. isn’t ready.
One of the reasons, besides having his hands on the trigger of nuclear missiles, why Kim has been so daring is the support from two other superpowers – economic superpower China and military superpower Russia. With China and Russia behind North Korea, Fatboy Kim is almost untouchable. However, a possible U.S. trade war on China could force Beijing to slowly drift away from Pyongyang.
Even if the Chinese decides to cut ties with Mr. Kim now, or pretends to be abandoning him for the sake of trades, the backup plan is already in place. In the absence of Beijing’s support, North Korea can always count on Moscow. Has anybody notice that when China was actively supporting North Korea, Russia mysteriously kept an elegant silence?
Now, it appears that China and Russia have started playing good-cop-bad-cop drama. With trade surplus of US$43.7 billion in July, 2017 alone, the choice isn’t difficult for the Chinese. Beijing knew that Trump administration, with little to lose, is ready to slap them with trade sanctions, as part of a plan to punish any country trading with rogue country North Korea.
Suddenly, Russia has sprung into action defending North Korea. On September 6, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that his country opposed cutting off oil supplies to North Korea as part of new sanctions being considered in the wake of the country’s latest nuclear test. Surprisingly, almost at the same time, China media said Beijing could be cutting off oil supplies to the hermit kingdom.
The United States and its allies are pushing for a global embargo on oil exports to North Korea as the United Nations Security Council debates a new round of sanctions against Kim regime. It’s certainly not a coincidence that while the Chinese have shown signs of sucking up to Trump administration, the Russians – with veto power over U.N. Security Council sanctions – came to the North’s defence.
At the same economic summit conference in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok where Putin declares his support for Kim, the Russian supremo also indirectly lectured U.S. President Trump that it is “impossible to scare” North Korea with economic sanctions, let alone military threats. That’s because while Mr. Kim may be a ruthless, murderous dictator, he is not mentally insane, let alone an idiot.
Putin justified why North Korea will always choose nuclear defence over economic benefits – “We are telling them that we will not impose sanctions, which means you will live better, you will have more good and tasty food on the table, you will dress better, but the next step, they think, is an invitation to the cemetery. And they will never agree with this.”
Of course, Putin was referring to how Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi met his fate after surrendered his nuclear weapons programs in response to Western demands. Putin explained that the international community has missed the most crucial point when they promised to lift economic sanctions against the isolated regime in exchange for it discontinuing its nuclear and missile programs.
That crucial point is the “survival or fate of Kim Jong-un”. Nuclear weapons are the only insurance policy that keeps him in power – and alive. Therefore, it isn’t possible to negotiate with North Korea if the condition is for Kim to abandon the program. The nuclear weapons program itself is “the most powerful, if not the only, bargaining chip that North Korea has.”
During the same meeting in Vladivostok, South Korea President Moon Jae-in also tried his luck charming the Russian president to support the proposed oil embargo on the North. Of course, Mr. Putin wasn’t impressed with the proposal and told Mr. Moon that sanctions and pressure would not persuade North Korea to give up nuclear weapons.
Putin reminded South Korea, a strong ally of the U.S., that stopping oil exports to the North would instead hurt ordinary North Koreans by disrupting hospitals and other civilian facilities. Obviously, the Russian president naughtily played the human rights card, a favourite game often used by the United States whenever the Americans preach democracy to other countries.
To counter the U.S. and South Korea’s military threats and economic sanctions on North Korea, Mr. Putin called on the United States and South Korea to consider the “freeze-for-freeze” proposal from China and Russia in which Washington and Seoul would suspend their joint annual military exercises in exchange for a North Korean moratorium on missile and nuclear tests.
The Security Council has imposed a total of 8 rounds of increasingly harsh sanctions against North Korea since the country conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. Unlike Arab leaders such as Libyan Muammar Gaddafi or Iraqi Saddam Hussein – both of whom died horribly – the North Korea has defiantly responded to the Council’s sanctions resolutions with more weapons tests.
So far, Kim Jong-un is still alive and kicking, and like his father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung, didn’t face the same fate as Saddam or Qaddafi – a proof that such strategy works. Both China and Russia said that sanctions had so far done little to stop North Korea from increasing its nuclear and missile capabilities, and that the country remained determined to build a nuclear arsenal despite President Trump’s threatening to rain down “fire and fury”.
Like it or not, Putin was absolutely correct when he continued his lecture – “We should not act out of emotions and push North Korea into a dead end. We must act with calm and avoid steps that could raise tensions.” Washington and Seoul may see Pyongyang as non-stop provocations, but the North Korea sees nuclear weapon as the ultimate defense against aggression and invasion of the U.S.