On 3rd September 2017, North Korea carried out the most powerful nuclear test in its history, which was already the sixth in a row. Together with the latest development of North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles, the country threatens the global security. However, before having a refuge in bomb shelters, we should first analyze the issue.
Could one small isolated country start a war against the rest of the world? At first, think if this country is such isolated as we imagine it to be. The country with 25 million people, instable economy, and often experiencing hunger would definitely collapse unless some powers supported it. Despite various sanctions in many spheres, North Korea trades with most states. Russia and China are its main economic partners.
Using historical perspective gives some insight into the modern situation. In times of the Cold War the competition of Soviet Union and the USA lead into the war on Korean peninsula; with Soviet resource and Chinese military support, North Korea emerged. Presently, after the collapse of the USSR, North Korea stays politically friendly to Russia. For example, it fully approves Russian controversial foreign steps, such as annexation of Crimea. China still stays a communist country and never stopped being North Korean political and economic partner. All three countries often undermine world alignment of forces led by the USA.
For more about Sino-Russian relations see the article: Chinese flirt with Russia over the Ukraine crisis
Before the American elections 2016, Donald Trump was stressing that China was able to end North Korean threat and the way to deal with North Korea was through Chinese involvement. From the other side, President Trump is afraid of Chinese economic dominance and would like to diminish the role of China in the world.
Notably, some Russian scholars are sure that Western propaganda demonizes North Korea, which is a deliberate American policy to make an enemy and to be able to develop its military capacities. According to this view, it is the USA, that is not interested in the peace on the Korean peninsula.
At UNSCR session, on Monday 4 September, China repeated the former Chinese-Russian proposition of “double freezing”, which would mean to suspend Pjongjangu’s nuclear program while suspending USA and South Korean military maneuvers in the region. The USA called this offer “offensive”. While most Western leaders keep supporting more sanctions against North Korea, China and Russia stay for diplomatic resolution of the conflict.
Finally, on 11th September, UN Security Council approved the wave of the most restrictive sanctions ever imposed on North Korea. However, Russia and China insisted on their approach, which they consider “reasonable and realistic alternative to the logic of an ultimatum of sanctions, that repeatedly proved to be ineffective.”
President Putin put it clear that North Korea will not leave the development of nuclear weapon as the country does not feel itself secure. As he stated: “They will eat grass, but they will never give up the nuclear weapon programme until they feel secure.” Feeling the threat from NATO and the European Union, Russia broke international rules and faced Western sanctions as well, however did not stop its former policy. President Putin understands his authoritarian college from North Korea quite well.
Therefore, we should not think of one person having a nuclear bomb in his hands but to remember about geopolitics. North Korea alone could not begin the next world war. The previous two world wars did not start due to a one charismatic leader in Germany; the competition of strong alliances developed into the conflict in Europe. When USA cannot go on with North Korea, it will need Chinese help. At that moment, China will be able to demand preferences in other issues and to secure its economic superiority. The same ‘game’ was played by Russia when it entered Syrian conflict to get some concessions in Ukraine crisis. ‘Korean game’ might be easily ruled by China defending its place under the sun and trying to take the attention of the world from its economic rise.
Although, the truth is hidden in depth and will never be revealed for ordinary humans, we should stay cautious and try to analyze the issue from different perspectives.