Valentina Matvienko, the Chairwoman of the Russian Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s Federal Assembly, has for the first time, confirmed to journalists that in early October of this year, the government of North Korea wrote a formal letter to Russia stating that Pyongyang was prepared to launch a nuclear strike on the United States.
Seeing as this statement came shortly after Donald Trump’s infamous threat to “destroy” North Korea during an insulting UN speech where he referred to Kim Jong-un as “rocket man”, it appears that North Korea’s promise to “visit rockets to the US mainland” made days later at the UN, were serious.
It has also emerged that Russia informed the US of the North Korean position which caused the US to tone down its rhetoric on North Korea, upon learning that North Korea in fact meant what it said.
There are several implications to this:
1. Russia’s channels of communication with both North Korea and the US allowed Moscow to be a kind of diplomatic envoy between the two countries which do not have formal relations. Russia’s diplomatic lines of communication may well have averted a nuclear war.
2. On the 12th of October, North Korea and Russia celebrated 69 years of diplomatic relations. While subdued, the event was marked by North Korea issuing maps showing Crimea as returned to the Russian Federation, in line with the referendum of 2014. This small gesture of good well helped solidify Russia as one of the few countries which is able to speak to North Korea, in spite of Moscow’s opposition to Pyongyang’s weapons program. This could have played a large part in convincing North Korea to tone down its military preparations for a would-be strikes.
3. The most recent major weapons test in North Korea came on 15 September of this year, when North Korea tested a ballistic missile. Since then, there have been no missile tests or nuclear tests. It is entirely possible, given this new information that Russia has used its diplomatic channels to de-escalate the situation unilaterally as the US refuses to engage directly with Pyongyang and China’s relations with the DPRK are incredibly strained at this time.