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North Korea expert: Russia is a player in the region

Just over two months after the failed summit with US President Trump, North Korea’s head of state Kim Jong Un met Russia’s president for the first time on Thursday. Did Vladimir Putin mediate in the nuclear dispute? What connects Russia and North Korea? Eric J. Ballbach, North Korea expert at the FU Berlin gives an assessment in the Sputnik interview.

The speculation that such a meeting was planned, there is already longer. I believe that both sides have an interest in it. It is less about solving the nuclear issue, because Russia is certainly not the central contact for North Korea. For North Korea, it is about promoting normalization diplomacy and revitalizing economic development, which is simply not possible given the current strict sanctions. As a member of the UN Security Council, Russia can at least ensure that they are not further aggravated. For Russia, this meeting is also about sending a signal that you too are a player in this region.

Even if Russia is not the central point of contact here, as you say, Putin could well support the nuclear talks between Kim and Trump?

I see Russia’s role less in direct mediation between the two countries – that is more the role of South Korea – but Russia can certainly play a symbolic role. The fact that Russia and China also participate in the talks at least shows the North Koreans that there is not a broad front against North Korea, but a multilateral dialogue. Historically, the Soviet Union has always played a major role on the Korean Peninsula.

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