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A. Vorontsov: Address to International Leadership Conference 2019

Address to International Leadership Conference 2019, Seoul, Korea, May 15-17, 2019


The strategic situation on the Korean Peninsula and its environs remains very volatile and unstable. Although in comparison with 2017, in 2018 the situation on the Korean Peninsula changed dramatically in a positive way. But in the present time, once again the security environment is complicated. In spite of the rapid shifting from the threat of imminent war between the United States and the DPRK that dominated the second half of 2017 to a spectacular improvement in relations between the main protagonists—Pyongyang and Washington, and Pyongyang and Seoul in 2018—in the beginning of this year the second President Trump–Chairman Kim Jong Un summit failure aggravated the situation again.

Therefore, despite the drastic improvement of security conditions in the last year as a whole, the situation especially regarding Washington–Pyongyang relations remains to be uncertain and fragile.

From one side the positive factor is that both the United States and North Korea definitely don't want to revert to the situation before 2017, consisting of conflict and confrontation. From another side the negative factor is that after the Hanoi meeting Washington clearly changed its pre-Hanoi position considerably raised the level of demands to Pyongyang and rejected phased approach towards a denuclearization process. In response, North Korea has blamed the U.S.'s "gangster-like" demands for the breakdown in talks and threatened to halt further negotiations with Trump. But the United States and North Korea again have come too far to revert to their contentious past.

So Russia considers that it's crucially important to promote the conditions for U.S. and DPRK negotiators to reconvene as soon as possible, so as not to lose momentum about the many issues discussed and narrowed in Hanoi as well as to prevent deterioration in relations between the United States and the DPRK. Upholding the de facto moratorium on DPRK nuclear and missile testing, as well as military exercises on the part of the United States and the Republic of Korea, was seen as critical to avoid escalation.

Moscow supported the above-mentioned positive trends on the Korean Peninsula based on the logic of the Russian–Chinese roadmap for a settlement. Of course, this calls for reciprocating Pyongyang’s constructive moves.

Russia continues to play a considerable role in order to facilitate peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. The recent visit of the DPRK leader to Vladivostok on April 24–26, 2019, and the first summit meeting with Russia Federation President Vladimir Putin confirm this fact.  

However, the serious and sensitive issue is that there is no obvious next move for Trump and Kim Jong Un, with neither wanting to lose face and both having to deal with hard-liners at home. Taking into consideration these factors, Moscow regards as a possible option to suggest that a neutral party could facilitate a meeting, preventing either side from losing face or negotiation leverage by proposing that talks continue. One of the existing variants is to encourage ROK President Moon Jae-in to contribute to the task of unlocking the impasse, perhaps by inviting Kim Jung Un to visit Seoul.

Regarding the regional situation, we need to note that in 2018 the international situation remained complicated. The potential for conflict increased last year, primarily because of the contradictions between some Western countries led by U.S. efforts to preserve the world’s unipolar model and unwillingness to accept the realities of the objectively developing multipolar world, as well as because of their desire to continue to force their will on others by means of pressure and economic and propaganda instruments. There are attempts to replace the universal norms of international law with a “rules-based order.” This term was recently coined to camouflage a striving to invent rules depending on changes in the political situation so as to be able to put pressure on disagreeable states and often even on allies.

Russia wants to strengthen the Eurasian Economic Union's international standing. Moscow did its best to align the EAEU with China’s Belt and Road initiative and to promote the Russia–ASEAN strategic partnership, including within the context of President Putin’s initiative for creating a Greater Eurasian Partnership based on the logic of harmonizing our integration processes and opening for accession to all countries and associations both in Asia and in Europe.

At the same time Moscow learned that the new U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy is a concept aimed at achieving first of all Washington’s own enhancement and that of its key allied states but not at the goal of harmonizing the interests of all regional countries.



To go to the May 2019 ILC Schedule page, click here.