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Russia sees U.S. hand in Korean situation

Vladimir Radyuhin

Keeping up tension on the peninsula is the only way the U.S. can justify the continuing presence of its forces, say experts.

As the crisis on the Korean peninsula continues unabated, Russia has accused the United States and South Korea of provoking the recent flare-up of tension.

On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the South Korean and U.S. Ambassadors to express “extreme concern” over a planned live-firing drill near a disputed maritime border with North Korea. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin “strongly urged” the envoys “to refrain from conducting the planned firing in order to avoid further escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula.” He reminded the envoys that a similar artillery firing on November 23 had “provoked an exchange of fire... that caused casualties.”

The statement is in line with the view of Russian experts on Korea who believe that the U.S. is provoking tension on the Korean Peninsula to continue to threaten Russia and China.

“Keeping up tension on the peninsula is the only way for the U.S. to justify the more than half-a-century-long presence of American forces in Japan and South Korea that is directed against Russia and especially China,” said Dr. Alexander Zhebin, head of the Centre for Korean Studies at the Russian Institute of the Far East.

The scholar said that had it not been for the North Korean “threat”, the U.S. would be hard put to explain the need for deploying missile defences in East Asia, which is proceeding much faster than in Europe and targets Russia and China rather than North Korea.

Russia's Friday statement on the Korea crisis signalled a perceptible shifted from its initial reaction to North Korea's shelling of South's Yeonpyeong Island that killed four people. Moscow then just “strongly condemned the use of force in inter-state relations” and urged both sides to show restraint.

After the crisis broke out Russia launched intensive diplomatic efforts to ease tension, hosting in Moscow the Foreign Ministers of Japan, North and South Korea and dispatching a senior diplomat to Washington for talks in the State Department. Russia clearly resented the U.S. decision to hold trilateral talks in Washington with Japan and South Korea instead of a China-proposed meeting of the six nations involved in long-stalled North Korean denuclearisation talks, which also includes China, Russia and North Korea.

Russia called for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Saturday. As the meeting was shifted to Sunday, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin accused the U.S. chairperson of the Security Council of delay tactics.

“We believe such action by the Chairperson is a departure from the established Council practice,” Mr. Churkin said.

A senior Kremlin official bluntly blamed the latest crisis between the two Koreas on “the military activity of South Korea and its allies that has recently intensified.”

“When military drills are held near the demarcation lines between the Korean states and especially in disputed areas, they become particularly provocative,” said Deputy Secretary of Russia's Security Council Vladimir Nazarov.

As it hit out at the U.S., Moscow said it saw eye to eye with Beijing on the Korea crisis. Discussing the problem on telephone on Saturday, the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers “coordinated their positions” and “were unanimous” in urging all sides for restraint, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Russia's solidarity with China is significant in the light of Washington's revived strategy of containing and encircling China.

“The recent tour of [U.S. President Barack] Obama of countries around China — India, South Korea, Japan and Indonesia — is an attempt to create a cordon sanitaire against rising China,” Dr. Zhebin said.

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