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Putin’s Anticipated Visit to North Korea Heats Up Global Tensions

Daniel Kim Views  

Yonhap News

As President Vladimir Putin of Russia is expected to visit North Korea as early as this week, South Korea and China planned to meet in Seoul around the same time. Amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula due to North Korea’s continued provocations such as sending balloons filled with trash, a fierce diplomatic battle is expected between South Korea, North Korea, China, and Russia.

According to the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the 16th, South Korea and China are discussing plans to hold a diplomatic security dialogue in Seoul in mid-June. Although it is not officially announced, the 18th will likely be the date as it coincides with when Putin is expected to arrive in North Korea. At the South Korea-Japan-China summit last month, President Yoon Suk Yeol and Premier Li Qiang of China decided to upgrade the South Korea-China diplomatic security dialogue to the deputy minister level and resume.

The South Korea-China diplomatic security dialogue is a 2+2 consultative body participated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Defense. The two countries have held ministerial-level talks twice in 2013 and 2015, but this would be the first time for a deputy minister-level meeting. It is known that a deputy minister from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a director-general from the Ministry of National Defense will attend.

In the dialogue to be resumed for the first time in nine years, South Korea and China are likely to focus on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, such as North Korea’s balloon propaganda, the launch of military reconnaissance satellites, and ballistic missiles. Also, the U.S.-China relationship and North Korea-Russia cooperation issues are expected to be discussed.

The South Korean side is expected to urge China to play a constructive role again. However, it is uncertain whether South Korea and China can speak with one voice on security issues, as North Korea expressed discomfort to China when the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was mentioned at the time of the South Korea-Japan-China summit joint declaration.

Meanwhile, several signs of Putin’s impending visit have been detected in North Korea. Daily NK reported on the 14th, citing a North Korean internal source, that North Korea declared a special security week in Pyongyang and border regions the day before. As a result, the frontline army divisions along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) have tightened their borders, and it was reported that three live rounds were distributed to the border guards in the North Korea-China border area.

The central city of Pyongyang is also busy preparing to welcome the guests. The U.S. civilian satellite service Planet Labs captured a large structure, presumably for a celebration, in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square. Typically, North Korea has installed structures in the square ahead of visits by high-ranking officials from China and Russia, or military parades.

Additionally, a red object was spotted at the Paekhwawon State Guest House entrance, a representative guesthouse in North Korea. The Paekhwawon State Guest House has been the accommodation for past South Korean presidents, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and former Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro who visited North Korea. It was also reported that the hotel is undergoing exterior renovations in preparation for Putin’s visit.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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