President Trump Says Russia Helping North Korea Evade UN Sanctions

In the least surprising news of the day the Russians are busy helping the North Koreans avoid sanctions:

President Donald Trump speaks during an interview with Reuters at the White House in Washington, D.C. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Donald Trump complained on Wednesday that Russia was helping North Korea to evade international sanctions, signaling frustration with a country he had hoped to forge friendly relations with after his 2016 election win.

“Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea,” Trump said during an Oval Office interview with Reuters. “What China is helping us with, Russia is denting. In other words, Russia is making up for some of what China is doing.”

China and Russia both signed onto the latest rounds of United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea imposed last year. There was no immediate comment from the Russian embassy in Washington on Trump’s remarks.  [Reuters]

I would not be surprised at all if this is all coordinated between the Chinese and the Russians.  The Chinese can increase their sanctions efforts to relieve pressure the Trump administration is putting on them while fully knowing the Russians will pick up the slack of aiding the Kim regime.

Russia Upset That Japan is Trying to Better Defend Itself Against North Korean Missile Threats

The Russians are actually more angry at the Japanese for trying to defend themselves than at the North Koreans which are the only reason the Japanese are spending so much money on missile defense in the first place:

Japan has approved the installation of two Aegis Ashore missile defence systems to defend the country against North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats (AFP Photo/Daniel Mihailescu)

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov on Saturday accused the United States of violating a key arms treaty by selling a missile defence system to Japan.

“The US is deploying them (missile defence systems) at their military bases in Romania and Poland, that is near our western borders, which goes against the 1987 INF Treaty banning the deployment of such systems on the ground,” Ryabkov said in a statement published on the Russian Foreign Ministry website.

“The fact that such complexes could now appear on Russia’s eastern borders creates a situation that we cannot ignore in our military planning,” said Ryabkov.

On Thursday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the deployment of the US missile defence system would have a negative impact on relations between Tokyo and Moscow.

“We consider the step made by the Japanese side as going against efforts of ensuring peace and stability in the region,” Zakharova said, adding that Moscow has “deep regret and serious concern” over the move.

On December 19, the Japanese government approved the installation of two land-based US-made Aegis Ashore missile defence systems to defend the country against North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats.  [AFP]

You can read more at the link.

Putin Says Global Strike to Disarm North Korea Possible, But Outcome Would Be Uncertain

Here is the latest on what Russian strongman President Vladimir Putin had to say about the current crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program:

Vladimir Putin

A global strike to disarm North Korea would be possible, yet its outcome uncertain, as it is a “closed state,” Russian President Vladimir Putin stated.

“Let us speak to the point, after all – can someone launch a global disarming strike? Indeed. Will it reach its targets? It’s unclear because no one knows for sure what is where,” Putin said while addressing the 2017 International Forum on Energy Efficiency on Wednesday.

He added there is no “100 percent knowledge” about North Korea’s objects as it is “a closed country.”

Meanwhile, Putin said, coercive rhetoric against Pyongyang and attempts “to speak from a position of strength” only give more power to the North Korean leadership.

The Russian leader urged all sides to cool down their rhetoric and engage in dialogue.

“All sides must ease rhetoric and find ways for face-to-face dialogue between the United States and North Korea, as well as between North Korea and countries in the region,” he said.

“Only this would help find balanced and reasonable decisions.”

“At any rate, it is not my cup of tea to define and assess policies of the United States president,” Putin added.  [Russia Today]

You can read more at the link.  Of course no one knows exactly where every strategic military asset the North Koreans have is located at.  However, we do know where the Yonbyong nuclear facility, their test launch site, SLBM barge, and missile manufacturing facilities are located at.  Taking those out would not end their nuclear or missile programs, but would set them back.

Russian Online Disinformation Targeting Veterans Has No Proven Effect

This sounds like much to do about nothing:

Russian trolls and others aligned with the Kremlin are injecting disinformation into streams of online content flowing to American military personnel and veterans on Twitter and Facebook, according to an Oxford University study released Monday.

The researchers found fake or slanted news from Russian-controlled accounts are mixing with a wide range of legitimate content consumed by veterans and active-duty personnel in their Facebook and Twitter news feeds. These groups were found to be reading and sharing articles on conservative political thought, articles on right-wing politics in Europe and writing touting various conspiracy theories.  [Washington Post]

Sounds scary right that the US military is being influenced by Russian misinformation?  Here is what the study really found out:

The kind of information shared by and with veterans and active-duty personnel span a wide range, with liberal political content also common, though not as common as conservative political content. The online military community, the researchers found, also shared links about sustainable agriculture, mental health issues such as addiction, and conspiracy theories.

No one subject dominated the online content flowing among these communities, but the largest individual categories dealt with military or veteran matters. Russian disinformation was a smaller but significant and persistent part of the overall information flow.

So basically the Russian disinformation was irrelevant.  This article could not even cite one piece of disinformation that had any effect on veterans.  The Washington Post even headlines this story with “Russian operatives used Twitter and Facebook to target veterans and military personnel, study says”.  The Washington Post could have more accurately titled this article “Study Finds Veterans Follow Military and Veterans Matters Online; Russian Disinformation Has No Proven Effect”.

The bottom line is that the Internet is filled with disinformation and people need to use critical thinking to sift through what is real and what is not.

Russia Opens New Internet Line to North Korea After US Cyberattack

The Russians are at it again:

A major Russian telecommunications company appears to have begun providing an Internet connection to North Korea. The new link supplements one from China and will provide back-up to Pyongyang at a time the US government is reportedly attacking its Internet infrastructure and pressuring China to end all business with North Korea.

The connection, from TransTeleCom, began appearing in Internet routing databases at 09:08 UTC on Sunday, or around 17:38 Pyongyang time on Sunday evening. Internet routing databases map the thousands of connections between telecom providers and enable computers to figure out the best route to a destination.  (…….)

On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that US Cyber Command has been carrying out denial of service attacks against North Korean hackers affiliated with the Reconnaissance General Bureau. The attacks attempt to overwhelm their computers and the Internet connection with traffic making them slow or impossible to use.

The US cyber attack was due to end on Saturday, reported the Post. That means the new Russian connection went online just after the US Cyber Command attack ended.  [38 North]

You can read more at the link.

Andrei Lankov Explains Why Russia Will Water Down or Veto UN Sanctions on North Korea

A ROK Drop favorite Andrei Lankov explains why Russia is going to attempt to water down United Nations sanctions on North Korea or veto them all together and it has nothing to do with Putin taking an anti-US position:

Andrei Lankov

Vladimir Putin was right when he recently said that even if North Koreans have to eat grass, they will not surrender nuclear weapons (of course, in North Korea the people who make decisions on nuclear weapons are far removed from the people who would have no choice but to eat grass).

However, there is the probability that a really harsh sanctions regime will eventually provoke a grave political crisis and revolution in North Korea: instead of eating grass, the people will rebel.

For American observers, who will watch enthusiastic TV reports about a North Korean revolution in safety, this development, as long as it does not trigger a region-wide war, will be welcome. After all, regime collapse will bring about the complete solution of the North Korean nuclear issue, the U.S.’s overwhelming concern.

However, Russia and China, inconveniently located on the border with North Korea, have reasons to be unenthusiastic about prospects of a Syria-like or Libya-like situation, anarchy and civil war in a nuclear-armed country nearby. For Moscow – and, for that matter, for Beijing – a collapsing North Korea is a greater threat than a nuclear one, however bad a nuclear North Korea is.  [NK News]

You can read the rest of the analysis at the link.

Putin Advocates for More Negotiations with North Korea

I am sure the irony is lost on few that President Putin is advocating against militarism and provocations and instead for everyone to get together and talk considering how own actions in Ukraine and Georgia in recent years:

(CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin has weighed into the North Korea crisis, warning the US and others against going down a “dead-end road” and calling for talks to resolve the issue.

“Russia believes that the policy of putting pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile program is misguided and futile,” Putin said in an article released Thursday by the Kremlin, ahead of the BRICS summit in Xiamen, China.
“The region’s problems should only be settled through a direct dialogue of all the parties concerned without any preconditions. Provocations, pressure and militarist and insulting rhetoric are a dead-end road,” Putin said.
His comments were published hours after the US and South Korea conducted a mock bombing raid on the Korean Peninsula that was denounced by Pyongyang as a “rash act.”
Russia was a participant in the six-party talks, which took place in the mid-2000s in an attempt to get North Korea to abandon its then burgeoning nuclear program.  [CNN]
You can read the rest at the link.

Ukraine Denies They Helped North Korea Master Rocket Technology

I think someone is definitely helping the North Koreans with their missile technology, but blaming Ukraine sounds like a Russian information operation:

Ukraine’s top diplomat in Seoul on Thursday denied allegations that North Korea might have obtained rocket engines used in its recently tested long-range missiles from Ukraine.

Charge d’Affaires Taras Fedunkiv, the acting Ukrainian ambassador to Seoul, still suspected that North Korea could not have been able to advance its missile technology “without outside help,” calling for an international probe to find “who was responsible.”

“The production lines for building these types of rockets in Ukraine were decommissioned in 1992. The expertise cannot be carried in the heads of rogue scientists. The instructions are included in complex manuals locked in top-security facilities guarded by our security forces,” he said in a written interview with Yonhap News Agency, citing Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin’s recent op-ed in The New York Times.

“Not only would it be virtually impossible for criminals to access these manuals, but also any effort could not go unnoticed by our government,” he added.

Citing a study by Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the New York Times reported on Aug. 14 that North Korea could have got its hands on technology needed for the success of the recent missile launches through black market purchases of rocket engines from Ukraine.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but I would not be surprised if it was the Russians helping the North Koreans master their long range rocket technology.

Experts Surprised By Chinese and Russian Coordination on North Korea Policy

I can’t understand why anyone is surprised by the synchronization of China and Russia’s North Korea strategy?  China and Russia have long had the common goal of weakening the United States’ commitment to alliances in Northeast Asia:

The proposal, and the strategic alignment between the two one-time rivals, raised some eyebrows amongst regional watchers. Russia has often backed China in U.N. Security Council negotiations, but during the Obama administration it was far less engaged on North Korea than China was. Xi’s government, meanwhile, had appeared prepared to begin taking a more assertive stance on the reclusive nation.

The recalibration serves a common goal that regional experts say is central to both Russian and Chinese foreign policy — loosening American alliances around the globe.

Former diplomats are split over the significance of the sudden chumminess. Robert Gallucci, the chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994, called it “unsettling” but “not catastrophic in any way.” He characterized the surprise sync as two nations seizing an opportunity to undercut the U.S.-Japan-South Korea alliance — not a herald of a new era of coordinated policy against the United States.

But some regional policy experts fear that a united Sino-Russian front on North Korea could make it more difficult for the U.S. to rein in Pyongyang’s burgeoning nuclear program.

“The fact that Moscow and Beijing are using virtually identical language and are very united at this time I think will provide great comfort to Kim Jong Un,” said David Pressman, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for political affairs who now works at the Boies Schiller Flexner law firm.  [The Hill]

You can read more at the link, but as I had previously mentioned this whole approach plays into the slow motion surrender of South Korea to North Korean hegemony and the end of the US-ROK alliance. Is it any wonder why China and Russia continue to enable the Kim regime?