April 16, 2017

The Korean Peninsula: Step by Step to Nuclear Chaos?

Recently, there is a critical aggravation of the situation around the Korean Peninsula, which creates a direct threat of an armed conflict in the region, including with the use of nuclear weapons. This is due to North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK)'s moving to a qualitatively new stage of national missile and nuclear program, which includes practical launches of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, and testing nuclear weapons.

In March 2017, North Korea carried out several launches of medium-range ballistic missiles and tested an engine for the intercontinental ballistic missile. Besides, its completion of the development of nuclear weapons has been confirmed.

These actions of North Korea cause deep concern of the USA and its allies in Asia-Pacific Region (especially of South Korea and Japan), who consider them a direct threat to their military security. With this in mind, lately the United States has stepped up measures to strengthen the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific Region and moved to closer forms of military and technical cooperation with its partners in Asia-Pacific Region (including creation of the Missile Defense System in South Korea).

Besides, the United States and other leading countries and international organizations have intensified political and diplomatic pressure on the government of the DPRK with the aim of forcing it to abandon the implementation of missile and nuclear programs. Measures for such pressure were also joined by China and formally Russia. The result was the series of UN Security Council's resolutions on sanctions against North Korea.

Despite this, on 5 April 2017 (on the eve of a meeting of leaders of China and the United States) North Korea carried out launches of ballistic missiles near its eastern coast. In addition, according to US intelligence, actually confirmed by the leadership of China, North Korea is preparing another underground explosion of a nuclear warhead.

In response, the United States sent to the area of the Korean Peninsula a carrier strike group (CSG) led by the nuclear aircraft carrier “Carl Vinson” (has on board 12 deck fighters F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, 36 deck fighter-bombers F/A-18 Hornet, 4 aircrafts of electronic warfare EA-18G Growler, and 6 helicopters Seahawk). Apart from the aircraft carrier, the group includes the Aegis guided-missile cruiser USS “Lake Champlain” (CG-57), the guided-missile destroyers USS “Wayne E. Meyer” and “Michael Murphy” (each ship has on board 56 to 96 cruise missiles “Tomahawk”), and two submarines of “Los Angeles” type (with more than 12 cruise missiles “Tomahawk” each). As of 15 April 2017, the CSG reached the fighting position at a distance of 500 km from the place of North Korea's alleged nuclear test.


Against this background, US President Donald Trump has made several sharp statements about “the USA's readiness to solve North Korea's missile and nuclear problem”. At the same time has been made public the program of actions of the United States, aimed at increasing political and economic pressure on North Korea with the support by China, which is the main trading partner of North Korea. According to representatives of the US administration, Washington has no intention to use military force against North Korea, but does not exclude it.

Thus, according to the NBC TV channel, citing sources in the US government and American intelligence, the United States are ready to carry out a preventive strike on North Korea to prevent Pyongyang's nuclear testing. In fact, a demonstration of such possibility was the USA's missile attack against the Shayrat military base (province of Homs) of the Syrian government's Air Force on 7 April 2017 under the pretext of the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons against the opposition, as well as the air strike on the “Islamic state”'s militants' shelter in Afghanistan on 13 April of this year with the use of “Mother of All Bombs” GBU-43/B.

The development of the situation around the Korean Peninsula has shown the firmness of the positions of the new leadership of the USA headed by Donald Trump to defend American interests in the world on the basis of “America above all!” principle. In fact, the demonstration of the USA's military power in the Asia-Pacific region has shown steadfastness of the United States' intention to consolidate its positions in the world as a leading center of global power.


All this is regarded by the leadership of North Korea as the real threat of attack from the United States, and causes Pyongyang's response. Thus, the government of North Korea has expressed its intention to protect the security of the country by all possible means, including the use of “powerful weapon”. According to the Ministry of Defense of North Korea “Pyongyang is ready to respond to a total war — with a total war and to a nuclear strike — with a nuclear strike”. In turn, specifying these intentions, Korean People's Army's General Staff has expressed readiness of the armed forces of North Korea to attack US military bases in Japan and the Korean Peninsula, and to strike on military, industrial and political centers of South Korea, including — the President's residence in Seoul.

A possibility of North Korea's such actions was demonstrated in the military parade in Pyongyang on 15 April 2017 on the occasion of the main national holiday — the birthday of the founder of the Republic — Kim Il Sung. At the parade for the first time were demonstrated new types of ballistic missiles of the armed forces of North Korea.


The aggravation of the situation around the Korean Peninsula is a new global factor in aggravation of international relations, along with Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine and the conflict in Syria. In fact, the developments in the Asia-Pacific Region create a direct threat of an armed conflict in the region, including with the use of nuclear weapons.



In this situation, China's leadership is trying to avoid conflict in the Asia-Pacific Region, and to ensure implementation of its interests in the region based on the balance of forces with the USA. At this, China has shown a willingness to deepen cooperation with the United States in addressing security problems in the region, but does not go to the principal concessions to the United States of America.

China's government continues to demonstrate a firm position on the need to resolve problems around North Korea exclusively through peaceful negotiations involving all the parties interested. Thus, 12 April 2017, on China's initiative, there was a telephone conversation between President of China Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump, during which they discussed the situation around the Korean Peninsula. Xi Jinping reiterated China's position on the need for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and peace and stability in the region. However, he expressed the PRC's readiness to join efforts with the USA to achieve those goals.

The same day, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a special statement calling on all parties to immediately defuse tensions around the Korean Peninsula “before the situation has become irreversible”. According to Wang Yi, “a conflict could break out at any moment. “If a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner”. Therefore, he pointed out that “whichever side provoked a conflict must assume the historic responsibility and pay the corresponding price”.

At the same time, according to media reports in South Korea, China has launched measures to strengthen its troops on the border with North Korea. In particular, as of mid-April, a 150-thousand servicemen group of People's Liberation Army is concentrated in the above-mentioned area.


In turn, Russia is actively using the tension in the APR for its own favour, for a rapprochement with China on anti-American basis. In this respect, Russia has launched a large-scale information campaign focusing on “the possibility of an armed conflict in the Korean Peninsula — near the borders of the Russian Federation and China, which requires the joint efforts of the two countries”. In this case Russia counts on China's commitments to “providing military and other assistance to North Korea in case of such a necessity” (according to the Agreement on Cooperation and Friendship between the PRC and North Korea, signed in 1961 and extended in 1981 and 2001).

Besides, Russia is deliberately provoking further aggravation of the situation around the Korean Peninsula. Thus, against the background of the concentration of the US Navy's carrying strike group near North Korea, to the same area was sent a group of warships of the RF Pacific Fleet led by the missile cruiser “Varyag”. According to the official report of the Staff of the RF Pacific Fleet, “the main aim of the campaign is to demonstrate St. Andrew's flag in the Asia-Pacific Region”.

Along with the creation of an anti-American alliance with China, a separate purpose of these actions is to divert the USA and international community's attention from Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine.


At this, despite the Russian Federation's attempts to create a “united front” with China against the United States, Moscow continues to consider China one of its potential opponents. The evidence of this is the content of operational and combat trainings of the RF Armed Forces at the border with China, within the framework of which, scenarios of an armed conflict with China are mastered.

In this regard, the most demonstrative was the control testing of the forces of the Eastern Military District of the RF Armed Forces for the winter training, which has been held since April 3, 2017. In the course of the test, were raised on alert and deployed in operational areas the units of the 5th (HQ in Ussuriysk, Primorsky Krai), 35th (HQ in Belogorsk, Amur region) and 36th (HQ in Ulan-Ude, Republic of Buryatia) Combined Arms Armies, and the 68th Army Corps (HQ in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk) of the Eastern Military District of the RF Armed Forces. Under the plan of the inspection, at the training grounds in Primorye, Amur region, the Republic of Buryatia and in the island of Sakhalin, combat training missions of defense and offensive nature are being mastered.

Meanwhile in the Eastern Military District of the RF Armed Forces were held SCPE of the Air Force and Air Defense troops stationed in the region. The exercises included: strengthening the grouping of the 11th Army of the Air Forces and Air Defense of the RF VKS (HQ in Khabarovsk, subordinated to the Eastern Military District) on the Trans-Baikal and coastal directions; redeployment of forces and means into spare areas; countering an enemy's air attack (including air strikes of aviation, cruise and ballistic missiles) and rocket and bomb attacks on the enemy's positions.

The peculiarity of the SCPE was building up the group of the 11th Army of the Air Force and Air Defense through the capabilities of the 4th Army of the Air Forces and Air Defense of the RF VKS (operatively subordinated to the Southern Military District of the Armed Forces of Russia) — on the Trans-Baikal direction, and of the naval aviation of the RF Pacific Fleet — on the Primorye direction.

In March this year, four aviation groups of the Su-34 and Su-34M frontline bombers and Su-27SM3 fighters from the 1st Combined Aviation Division of the 4th Army of the Air Forces and Air Defense made the flight to the airfield of the 266th Assault Aviation Regiment and the 120th Fighter Aviation Regiment (airfield Domna, Chita district, the Trans-Baikal Territory) of the 303rd Combined Aviation Division of the 11th Army of the Air Forces and Air Defense. During the relocation at a distance of 6.5 thousand kilometers, three aerial refuelings were carried out from the tanker aircraft Il-78.

At the same time, ten Mi-8AMTSH (“Terminator”) and Mi-8MTPR-1 helicopters from the 16th Brigade of the Army Aviation (airfield Zernograd, Rostov region) flew to the airfield of the 439th Airbase of the Army Aviation (airfield Cheryomushki, near Chita) of the 11th Army of the Air Forces and Air Defense. During the flight, there were fourteen intermediate landings for refueling of the helicopters and the crews' rest. Besides, the aircrafts of the military transport aviation transported 100 military pilots and engineering staff.

To the Republic of Buryatia were shipped by railway over 250 pieces of armaments and military equipment, including anti-aircraft missile systems “S-300PM” and anti-aircraft gun systems “Pantsyr-S”, means for ground support to aviation, radars, communications equipment, engineering tools, and more than 500 military ground personnel.

In turn, the grouping of the 11th Army of the Air Forces and Air Defense on the Primorye direction was strengthened with aircraft interceptors MiG-31 and MiG-31BM from the Kamchatka airbase of the Naval Aviation of the RF Pacific Fleet (airfield Yelizovo, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky). The aircrafts flew over more than two thousand kilometers to the airfield of the 22nd Fighter Aviation Regiment (Artem, Primorsky Krai) of the 11th Army of the Air Forces and Air Defense.

In view of this, all in all in the SCPE were involved more than 1.5 thousand pieces of equipment, including SU-30CM, Su-25, MiG-31 aircrafts, Mi-24 and Mi-8MTSH helicopters and anti-aircraft missile systems S-400, S-300, “Tor-M2U”, “Osa”, “Strela-10”, antiaircraft gun complexes “Pantsyr-S”, self-propelled anti-aircraft systems “Shilka” and portable anti-aircraft missile systems “Igla”.

Based on the nature of these measures, within the framework of training exercises was mastered the scenario of a strategic defense operation during Russia's armed conflict with China. At this, the main group of the troops of the Eastern Military District of the RF Armed Forces was concentrated on the Trans-Baikal and Primorye directions, and were strengthened by additional forces redeployed from other regions of Russia.

The control testing of the Eastern Military District's troops of the RF Armed Forces was accompanied by a separate information campaign of the Russian media with emphasis on “China's actual support for USA's sanctions against the Russian Federation” and “China's claims to Lake Baikal and Trans-Baikal region of the Russian Federation”. In support of this, were presented facts of the Chinese banks' refusal to give loans to Russian business and the proposal of the Chinese Institute for Planning and Design of Cities and Rural Areas to build a water pipeline from Lake Baikal to the city of Lanzhou (the project aims to address the problem of drought and shortage of drinking water in China's Gansu province).


So, we see that Russia is leading a dual policy towards China. On the one hand, Moscow is trying to build a strategic partnership with China, on the other — it considers the PRC its strategic enemy.

At this, the main goal of Russia's policy towards China is resolving of Russia's own problems in relations with the West through involving China into confrontation with the United States, including in the military sphere.

All this shows once again the impossibility of building a constructive relationship between Russia and the rest of the civilized world. In fact, Russia is already in international isolation along with other countries-pariahs.