Preview: Leo Sikharulidze - Dead Man Walking, The Diplomacy of Kim Jong Un

Attention! This is a preview.
Please click here if you would like to read this in our document viewer!


Dead Man Walking: The Diplomacy of Kim Jong-un Written by Leo Sikharulidze 25.04.2019 21 cars of a green, armored train carrying the young and ruthless leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, slowly approached the city of Vladivostok, where another strongman, Mr. Putin awaited him for the much publicized and first ever official state visit of the North Korean leader to vast Russia. This visit comes after the breakdown of negotiations 1 between President Trump and Kim in Hanoi earlier this year and represents the continuation of a long history of North Korean leaders travelling to Russia in order to reinforce their foreign political agenda. Kim is desperately trying to find a way out from the international deadlock he and his regime face while Putin on the other hand, is always welcome to opportunities that showcase his geopolitical weight on the global scale, Vladivostok literally means “Rule the East” in Russian language after all. “Ahead of the summit, experts said it was very

unlikely the meeting would produce anything concrete. Instead, the encounter for both sides was more about the image it broadcast.” 2 It would have been unwise to expect any specific and groundbreaking results from this very meeting. Moreover, the very case of the convention between the two leaders, along with the framing context to it, carries the main aim and purpose in itself, Kim can now boast that, in both regional powers, Russia and China, he is an honored and warmly received guest. “According to the Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin believes the six-party talks on North Korea, which are currently stalled, are the only efficient way of addressing the issue of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.” 3 The six-party format includes China, Japan, Two Koreas, USA and Russia and represents an alternative to the bilateral approach that has been favored by all respective sides lately, which unfortunately has been fruitless as of now. 1

https://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/how-the-trump-kim-summit-in-hanoi-failed-big-threats-bigegos-bad-bets (accessed 25/04/2019) 2 https://abcnews.go.com/International/kim-jong-vladimir-putin-share-warm-greeting-start/story?id=62617546 (accessed 25/04/2019) 3 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-48047279 (accessed 25/04/2019) Kim Jong-un has been very active on the international scene, since his ascension to the throne of communist hermit kingdom, Kim has met with President Trump twice, with Xi Jinping four times and with his southern counterpart, the South Korean leaders for three times. If one tries to make sense of the diplomacy Kim Jong-un conducts, it is necessary to consider the type of state he leads, hence his persona. It does not take a lot of research to draw contours of the North Korean leaders archetype, it suffices to recall that “Kim Jong-un forced his uncle to watch colleagues get blow apart with anti-aircraft guns before he was also killed by the same

method, a defector claims in shocking new revelations.” 4. Kim is a survivor, he had to conquer his right to rule and he never shied away from doing what he deemed crucial to ensure his rule supreme, not even assassinating his own brother5. The North Korean state resources are directed to that very aim, to ensure the survival of the Kim regime and diplomacy, next to nuclear military, is one of the cornerstones of this commitment. Kim Jong-un realizes that his foreign political progress will be useless without a sound domestic policy. “While North Korean economic statistics remain classified, foreign observers agree that the Kim Jong-un years have been an era of the remarkable economic growth. South Korea’s central bank estimated that in 2016 North Korean GDP grew by 3.9%. However, this estimate is the most conservative of all available: many diplomats and ex-pats in Pyongyang believe that the actual growth rate is higher, perhaps close to 6-7%.”6 Kim Jong-un is still very

careful when it comes to domestic reforms, comparing his will for change with those of Deng Xiaoping for example would be inaccurate to say the least, Kim simply does not have the luxury to plan long term as the latter. If not as a role model for turning into a communist capitalism, (Karl Marx is probably turning over in his grave), China definitely serves as the closest thing to an ally for Kim Jong-un, as mentioned above Kim has met the most (four times) with Xi Jinping. His first ever official abroad has also been in the People’s Republic of China. 7 Kim’s turn towards Putin is a proof of not only his diplomatic suppleness but an indicator of the larger compatibility between the two, Putin has also never refrained from publically executing his enemies, however he tends to be more gentle, delivering the fatal blows in a cup of tea8 rather than shooting his enemies apart with anti-aircraft weapons. Some consider this cordiality between the two as a major setback for President

Attention! This is a preview.
Please click here if you would like to read this in our document viewer!


Trump, who has been blatantly told by the North Koreans that his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo was no good. “In a statement released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, Foreign Ministry official Kwon Jong Gun said 4 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6743759/Kim-Jong-forced-uncle-watch-colleagues-execution-antiaircraft-guns-defector-claims.html (accessed 25/04/2019) 5 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/01/how-north-korea-got-away-with-the-assassination-of-kimjong-nam (accessed 25/04/2019) 6 https://www.fpri.org/article/2018/06/north-korea-under-kim-jong-un-reforms-without-openness/ (accessed 25/04/2019) 7 Park, Yuna; Campbell, Joseph (17 March 2018). "Now North Korean diplomat heads to Finland amid new diplomatic flurry" (accessed 25/04/2019) 8 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/19/alexander-litvinenko-the-man-who-solved-his-own-murder (accessed 25/04/2019) Pompeo had been "letting loose reckless remarks and sophism of all kinds

against us every day." 9 With President Trump losing the diplomatic edge in regards to North Korea, Russia traditionally has not lost time to attempt to replace USA in the local regional context as in the Middle East. Russians are careful enough in the sense that “Russian officials took pains to emphasize they are not trying to undercut Mr. Trump, though Mr. Putin and his government often seem to relish opportunities to thwart the international aims of the United States and its allies. A Kremlin adviser, Yuri Ushakov, told Russian news media on Wednesday that the meeting intended to “consolidate the positive trends” of Mr. Trump’s talks.” 10 Despite of all the funfair with which Kim Jung-on has been greeted in Vladivostok by the Kremlin strongman, the strategic situation of North Korea has all the essentials to make the young dear leader of North Korea lose sleep at night. He has witnessed the brutal removal of Colonel Gaddafi and is undoubtedly closely observing the

struggle for survival by Maduro. Kim Jong-un can afford no mistakes, President Trump has designated the solution of the Korean Peninsula decades long conundrum as one of his main foreign political goals, as the 2020 Presidential elections approach, it is logical to assume an exponential growth of pressure on behalf of the Trump administration to achieve a breakthrough on diplomatic frontlines. Kim has attempted to negotiate face to face with Americans and deserves praise for having the courage to do so, as his visit to Russia proves, Kim is looking for different formats through which he will be able to achieve his one and only goal, to safeguard his reign. 9 https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/18/politics/north-korea-us-pompeo-intl/index.html (accessed 25/04/2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/24/world/asia/putin-kim-russia-summit.html (accessed 25/04/2019) 10