Russia steps into North Korea/China split

Discord between China and North Korea has provided fertile ground for Moscow, itself increasingly isolated over Ukraine, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe in a new column, Jilted Putin courts Kim Jong-un for comfort. Excerpt:

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Kim Jong-un visits a North Korean school in June. Photo by Prachatai, Flickr, Creative Commons

The ripples set in motion by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s ever more blatant involvement in fighting in eastern Ukraine have reached the other side of the world, and are lapping on the shores of the hermit kingdom of North Korea.

As the European Union and the United States impose increasingly onerous sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his court, and a long term chill in relations with the West appears likely, Moscow can’t be too choosy about the new friends it makes.

In this frigid climate, even the unpredictable, spoiled brat North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the Justin Beiber of dictators, can seem warm and charming.

And as the smiling men with gleaming teeth from Moscow have come to call, it so happens that Kim also is feeling desperately unloved.

China has been Pyongyang’s indispensable patron since the Korean War in the early 1950s, propping up North Korea’s hopelessly dysfunctional economy and providing diplomatic cover at the United Nations for its ideological sibling. But North Korea’s insistence, against all reason, on pursuing a nuclear weapons development program, and Beijing’s growing preference for pragmatic foreign relations over ideological ones are coming close to severing the old ties … continue reading  Jilted Putin courts Kim Jong-un for comfort (subscription*).

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