On the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, President Vladimir Putin made some sober observations about the increasingly tense situation in North Korea.
“We should be cold-blooded and we should avoid steps to escalate tension,” Putin said after meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. “Without political and diplomatic levels, this situation will be very difficult to resolve and I think even impossible to do.”
The South Korean leader appeared to agree.
“If North Korea‘s provocation doesn’t stop here, I think could fall into an uncontrollable situation,” he said in regards to North Korea’s recent sixth, and most powerful, nuclear weapons test.
Why it’s on our radar: The great powers in the region appear to be resigned to the fact that war could break out anytime on the Korean peninsula.
Russia has moved forces to its border region with North Korea, and China has done the same. Meanwhile, South Korean forces have been ramping up military exercises and performing its own missile and weapons testing. In addition, Seoul has asked the U.S. to lift the weight limit its ballistic missiles can carry while permitting the U.S. to add THAAD anti-missile systems.
Russia and China have indeed submitted a plan to de-escalate tension on the Korean peninsula, but neither the U.S. nor the North Koreans appear ready to accept it — because it contains unacceptable terms. The proposal calls for an end to joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises and for the North to give up its nuclear program.
As to the latter, Putin also said recently that sanctions won’t work in convincing the North to surrender its program, noting that “they’d rather eat grass than give up” the program.
President Trump appears to agree, telling British Prime Minister Teresa May Tuesday “now is not the time to talk” to North Korea.