Russia warns North Korea over threats of nuclear strike
Russia has warned North Korea that threats to deliver “preventive nuclear strikes” could create a legal basis for the use of military force against the country, suggesting that even Pyongyang’s few remaining friends are growing concerned about its increasingly confrontational stance.
The Russian foreign ministry statement, which follows a North Korean threat to “annihilate” the US and South Korea, also criticises Washington and Seoul for launching the largest joint military drills yet to be held on the peninsula.
“We consider it to be absolutely impermissible to make public statements containing threats to deliver some ‘preventive nuclear strikes’ against opponents,” the Russian foreign ministry said in response to North Korea’s threats.
“Pyongyang should be aware of the fact that in this way the DPRK will become fully opposed to the international community and will create international legal grounds for using military force against itself in accordance with the right of a state to self-defense enshrined in the United Nations Charter,” continued the statement, translated by Itar Tass news agency.
Washington and Seoul launched their annual joint military exercises on the peninsula on Monday, stepping up the manoeuvres in response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January and rocket launch in February.
But while the statement said Moscow was opposed to the tone of North Korea’s response, it also said the scale of the American-South Korean joint exercise put “unprecedented … military and political pressure on Pyongyang”.
“Naturally, as a state, which is directly named as an object of this kind of military activities, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) cannot but feel reasonably concerned for its security,” the statement said.
Pyongyang had said the drills, which are set to run to the end of April, are rehearsals for invading.
Russia has historically had close relations with North Korea, making its warning that the country may be laying itself open to military action particularly notable.
But one observer said Moscow’s response could be expected, given the tone of North Korea’s recent public statements.
“Pyongyang should be learning that the types of threats they continue to make will have consequences,” said Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based North Korea researcher at Troy University.
“The security dilemma dynamics that the behaviour and rhetoric set in motion are making Son’gun Korea less secure, not more secure,” he said. “This is the flaw in their national security strategy, and it will continue to be exposed in the future.”
Another North Korea watcher said the statement might be better viewed as a warning to Pyongyang of what others might do, rather than Russian actions in particular.
“Russia is pointing out to North Korea that its inflammatory rhetoric risks giving its opponents – primarily South Korea and the US – just cause to pursue military action against it,” said regional expert Christopher Green.
Inter-Korean relations have worsened significantly in recent weeks, with Pyongyang showing particular sensitivity to the UN sanctions agreed last week.
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