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Vladimir Putin: US ultimately to blame for North Korea’s nuclear weapons

In comments in Beijing Russian President Putin blames US regime change policies for provoking North Korea into acquiring nuclear weapons. Says that dialogue between the US and North Korea not threats is the way to defuse the crisis.

Alexander Mercouris

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Russian President Putin in answer to journalists’ questions in Beijing has squarely laid the blame on US foreign policy for causing North Korea to launch a programme to acquire nuclear weapons.

This is how President Putin spoke about North Korea’s programme during a press conference he gave in Beijing today

Question: News came in during the forum that North Korea has carried out another missile launch. What is your view on such reports and how do you assess the threats these launches pose?

VladimirPutin: Firstly, I would like to reiterate that we categorically oppose any expansion to the club of nuclear powers, including by means of including North Korea. We have made our position clear to our partners, including the North Koreans. We consider this counterproductive, harmful and dangerous.

On the other hand, we understand that the recent global developments, in particular blatant violations of international law, invasion of foreign states, regime change and the like, are spurring this arms race. In this context, we should act comprehensively to strengthen the system of international guarantees with reliance on international law and the UN Charter.

In any case, we believe that nuclear and missile tests are unacceptable. Dialogue with North Korea must be resumed, attempts to intimidate the country must stop and a way to settle these matters peacefully must be found.

Is this possible? I believe so, especially considering the positive experience of such dialogue with North Korea. As you may remember, there was a period when North Korea announced the termination of its nuclear programme. Regrettably, the negotiating parties failed to muster the patience to translate this intention into reality. I believe we should resume these discussions.

As for the latest missile launch, the Russian Defence Minister reported to me about it immediately, and the issue was later covered in the media. I have nothing more to say on this. This launch did not present a direct threat to Russia. However, such launches can provoke a conflict, which is not good at all.

(bold italics added)

Putin whilst in Beijing has had detailed discussions with the Chinese leadership including President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang.  It is a certainty that the subject of North Korea featured highly in these discussions.  What Putin said about North Korea therefore almost certainly reflects China’s view of the crisis on the Korean Peninsula as well.

The key point Putin is making is that North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programme – though illegal and illegitimate – is the inevitable consequence of the US’s foreign policy of “blatant violations of international law, invasion of foreign states, regime change and the like”.

Compare that with what I said recently said about the reasons behind the North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programme

North Korea decided to acquire nuclear weapons not out of some fanatical desire to attack the US, or because it wants to use its nuclear weapons to conquer South Korea or to hold the entire world hostage – all of them suicidal acts of no conceivable benefit to itself – but because it feels threatened by the US…..

…….in the 1990s – at a time when North Korea was struggling with an existential economic crisis caused by the cut-off of Soviet aid – the US openly gloated that the North Korean regime was about to collapse, and in the late 1990s it also embraced a policy of regime change around the world, which was first and foremost targeted at a group of countries lumped together by the George W. Bush administration as the so-called “Axis of Evil” which included North Korea.

It is completely understandable therefore that the North Korean government felt threatened by the US, and that in the absence of a reliable superpower protector like the USSR it should have sought to protect itself from the US and South Korea by developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons…..

……it is the US, not North Korea, whose actions are propelling the crisis in the Korean Peninsula.

In other words North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programme is purely defensive and has been provoked by US actions.  The North Koreans say as much, as I have pointed out what they say makes complete sense, and Putin – almost certainly reflecting Chinese thinking – is now saying the same thing.

Moreover Putin’s comment that the way forward with North Korea is not to seek to intimidate it but to pursue dialogue reflects China’s view as well.

The Chinese have rejected the Trump’s administration’s call for all embracing sanctions against North Korea such as might put in jeopardy the survival of the North Korean government.  I have previously explained why the Chinese will never agree to such sanctions

The Chinese have never made any secret of their strong disapproval of the North Korean nuclear programme, which they recognise – even if the West does not – as partly intended to reduce North Korea’s strategic dependence on them.  They have also never hidden their contempt for the dynastic nature of North Korea’s political system, and for their strong preference for the establishment in North Korea of a system of government more like their own.

That there are tensions and even a measure of mutual dislike between the North Korean leadership and China is shown by the fact that Kim Jong-un has not visited China or met publicly with any senior Chinese official since he became North Korea’s leader in December 2011.  Moreover since becoming leader Kim Jong-un seems to have acted to curtail Chinese influence in North Korea, firstly by executing in December 2013 his uncle Jang Song-thaek, who is believed to have been close to China, and who some think was China’s choice to succeed Kim Jong-un’s father Kim Jong-il, and secondly by possibly ordering the murder of his half-brother Kim Jong-nam, who appears to have enjoyed a measure of protection from China.

However these tensions and this dislike cannot change the fact that China’s prestige and the internal stability of China’s own government are bound up with the survival of the existing regime in Pyongyang.

Not only did China fight a war against the US in the 1950s to secure the survival of the North Korean regime, but China simply cannot afford the humiliation of having a regime with which it has such longstanding ties being overthrown and replaced by a US backed regime on its own border.  Such an event would undoubtedly provoke a massive political crisis within China, and any Chinese leaders who allowed it to happen would not survive it…..

The result is that though the Chinese regularly voice their disapproval of North Korea’s actions, and from time to time go through the motions of imposing sanctions on North Korea, in practise they always stop well short of doing anything that would seriously injure or undermine the North Korean regime…..

Rather than make demands on China to which China will never submit, or make threats against China which can only backfire, the US would be far better advised to do what it has consistently refused to do, which is talk to North Korea’s leadership about agreeing limits to that country’s nuclear weapons programme.

Putin is saying in the same thing, that threats against North Korea – whether via all embracing sanctions or military action – are misconceived and counter-productive.  Instead – since North Korea’s actions have been provoked by the US’s actions – the way forward is the one the Chinese have proposed: dialogue between the US and North Korea to allay North Korea’s concerns in return for a freeze of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programme.

Here is what I have said previously about this

…..since North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme is intended to be defensive and is not intended as a means of aggression, there is no cause or justification for the current hysteria and panic about it.  Provided North Korea is left alone there is no danger of an attack by North Korea on anyone.

Since North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme is defensive, a political settlement of the Korean crisis should in theory also be possible.  I have already discussed the outline of what such a settlement might be.

Given that it is fear of the US which is driving the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme, it is also obvious what the first step to defuse the Korean crisis should be.

This should not be more threats against North Korea, which can only make the crisis worse.  It should be an immediate start of a dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang as proposed by China following upon a suspension of the joint military exercises the US conducts regularly with South Korea.

Since the US would not want to appear to accept the linkage between these exercises and the North Korean nuclear programme that the Chinese and the Russians – because of the US’s own ham-fisted actions – are now making, it should announce their suspension unilaterally, relying on the Chinese and the Russians to ensure that the North Koreans suspend their nuclear tests in response, which they would almost certainly do.

Direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang could then follow, in which case a way might finally be found out of a crisis, which because of thoughtlessness and bombast, first and foremost in Washington, has over many years been driven into a dangerous impasse.

Moreover as Putin points out when dialogue with North Korea was attempted before in the 1990s it bore fruit.  Here again is what I have previously said about this

When the US did briefly talk to North Korea in the 1990s the agreements it made then appeared for a time to work, until the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations foolishly went back on them.  That set the scene for the crisis we are in now.  It is time the US went back to that approach.

The Korean crisis is neither intractable nor unsolvable.  On the contrary the way forward is clear.  The Chinese, the Russians (as in Putin’s comments) and the North Koreans themselves have all pointed the way.

It is for the US to abandon its dream of overthrowing the North Korean government – whether through military action or through all-embracing sanctions imposed by China – and begin instead to talk directly to North Korea about achieving a peaceful settlement of the conflict in the Korean Peninsula.

Though such a negotiation will be extremely difficult given the extreme level of mistrust, there is enough commonality of interest between the parties – first and foremost the US and North Korea, but also China and South Korea – to make a final agreement possible.

The alternative is the disastrous arms race Putin refers to in his comments in Beijing and which is what we have now.

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Europe to become battlefield: Vladimir Putin warns US over INF treaty [VIDEO]

Russian leader gives his point of view clearly and explains American violations of the INF while being hopeful about November 11th summit.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Rossiya 24 News featured a question and answer session with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which he gives his thoughts about the US decision to withdraw from the INF (Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces) treaty. We bring you that in this video clip:

Looks like this will be on the agenda for the November 11th summit in Paris.

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John Bolton discusses US reasons for INF withdrawal

Despite fears about the US withdrawing from the INF, John Bolton suggests that this is to make way for a more relevant multilateral treaty.

Seraphim Hanisch

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John Bolton, the US National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump, is in Moscow this week. The main topic of concern to many Russians was the stated intention by President Trump to withdraw the US from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (or INF) Treaty with Russia. With the current record of American hostile and unprovoked actions taken against the Russian Federation over the last two years especially, this move caused a good deal of alarm in Russia.

Bolton had meetings with several leaders in the Russian government, including Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, and President Vladimir Putin, himself.

Kommersant.ru interviewed Mr. Bolton extensively after some of his meetings had concluded, and asked him about this situation. The interviewer, Elena Chernenko, was very direct in her questioning, and Mr. Bolton was very direct in his answers. What follows is the translation of some of her pertinent questions and Mr. Bolton’s answers:

Elena Chernenko (EC): How did your negotiations with Nikolai Patrushev go? Is it true that you came to Moscow primarily to terminate the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF)?

John Bolton (JB): (Laughs.) Today was my second meeting with Nikolai Patrushev and the staff of the Russian Security Council. The first time I met them was before the summit in Helsinki. I came to prepare the ground for a meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin. Patrushev at the time was understood to be in South Africa. So I met with his deputy [Yuri Averyanov – Kommersant] and other colleagues. Patrushev and I first met in Geneva in August.

In any case, this is the second meeting after Helsinki, and it was scheduled about six weeks ago. Now was simply the right time to meet. We arrived with a broad agenda. Many issues – for example, arms control and all related topics – were discussed in Geneva in August. We discussed them then and planned to do it again in Moscow. And we had these plans before the President’s Saturday statement [on the US intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty. “Kommersant”].

EC: Can you explain [this decision] to us? What are the reasons for this decision?

JB: Five or even more years ago, during the presidency of Barack Obama, the United States concluded that Russia committed substantial violations of the INF Treaty; [that Russia] was involved in the production and deployment of missiles that do not comply with the terms of the agreement. The Obama administration called on Russia to return to fulfilling its obligations. The Trump administration called for the same. But based on Russian statements, it became clear that they [the authorities of the Russian Federation— Kommersant] do not at all believe that any kind of violation occurred. And today, during the talks, my Russian interlocutors very clearly expressed their position – that it is not Russia that is in violation of the INF Treaty, but the United States.

However, rather than devolve the negotiations into a tit-for-tat issue, Mr. Bolton noted the real nature of the problem. He understood that simply asking for Russia to resume compliance with the treaty would not be enough – in fact, for Bolton, and really, for President Trump, whom he represents in this matter – the issue is not just an argument between the US and Russia at all. He continued:

JB: Now, some say: “This is just a negotiating move by President Trump, and if we could force Russia to return to the fulfillment of obligations, the treaty would be saved.” But this is impossible from the point of view of logic.

This is the reality we face. As the president said, Russia is doing what we think is considered a violation of the agreement, and we will not tolerate it without being able to respond. We do not think that withdrawal from the agreement is what creates the problem. We think that what Russia is doing in violation of the INF Treaty is the problem.

There is a second point: No one except us in the world is bound by this treaty. Although this is technically incorrect: lawyers will tell you that the former USSR countries (with the exception of the three Baltic republics, which the US never recognized as part of the USSR), were also bound by the treaty when the USSR collapsed. But the remaining 11 countries do not have any ballistic missiles. That is, only two countries in the world are bound by the INF Treaty. One of these countries violates the agreement. Thus, there is only one country in the world bound by the terms of the document – the USA. And this is unacceptable.

At the same time, we see that China, Iran, the DPRK – they all strengthen their potential with methods that would violate the INF Treaty, if these countries were its signatories. Fifteen years ago, it was possible that the agreement could be extended and made multilateral. But today it is already impracticable in practice. And the threat from China is real – you can ask countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan or Australia what they think about the Chinese [missile. – Kommersant] potential. They are nervous about this. Many in Europe and the Middle East are nervous about Iran’s potential.

As the President explained on Saturday, this puts the United States in an unacceptable position. And that is why he promulgated the decision [to withdraw from the INF Treaty. – Kommersant].

So, here, the President’s point of view is that the treaty as it presently stands has two problems: Russia is in violation (and a very good point was conceded by Bolton of how the American side also becomes in violation as well), but the INF treaty only applies to these two countries when the emerging great and regional powers China, North Korea, and Iran, also have these types of missiles.

For President Trump, an effective measure would be to create a multilateral treaty.

This is a very interesting point of discussion. Politically for President Trump, this immediate decision to withdraw from the INF looks like a show of toughness against Russia. Before the midterms this is probably an important optic for him to have.

However, the real problem appears to be the irrelevance of a treaty that applies to only two of the at least five nations that possess such armaments, and if Russia and the US were limiting only their missiles, how does that prevent any other power from doing the same?

While it could be argued that North Korea is no longer a threat because of its progress towards denuclearization, and Iran maintains that it has no nuclear weapons anyway, this leaves China. Although China is not expressing any military threats at this time, the country has shown some increased assertiveness over territories in the South China Sea, and Japan and China have historically bad relations so there is some worry about this matter.

Behind this all, or perhaps more properly said, in concurrence with it, is the expressed intention of Presidents Putin and Trump to meet again for another summit in Paris on November 11. There are further invitations on both sides for the American and Russian presidents to visit one another on home grounds.

This brings up speculation also that President Trump has some level of confidence in the outcome of the US Congressional midterm elections, to be held in two weeks. It appears that Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin also will not be thwarted any longer by opinions and scandal over allegations that bear no semblance to reality.

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Kiev ‘Patriarch’ prepares to seize Moscow properties in Ukraine

Although Constantinople besought the Kiev church to stop property seizures, they were ignored and used, or perhaps, complicit.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The attack on the Eastern Orthodox Church, brought about by the US State Department and its proxies in Constantinople and Ukraine, is continuing. On October 20, 2018, the illegitimate “Kyiv (Kiev) Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko who is calling himself “Patriarch Filaret”, had a synodal meeting in which it changed the commemoration title of the leader of the church to include the Kyiv Caves and Pochaev Lavras.

This is a problem because Metropolitan Onuphry of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is canonically accepted and acts as a very autonomous church under the Moscow Patriarchate has these places under his pastoral care.

This move takes place only one week after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople unilaterally (and illegally) lifted the excommunications, depositions (removal from priestly ranks as punishment) and anathemas against Filaret and Makary that were imposed on them by the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate.

These two censures are very serious matters in the Orthodox Church. Excommunication means that the person or church so considered cannot receive Holy Communion or any of the other Mysteries (called Sacraments in the West) in a neighboring local Orthodox Church. Anathema is even more serious, for this happens when a cleric disregards his excommunication and deposition (removal from the priesthood), and acts as a priest or a bishop anyway.

Filaret Denisenko received all these censures in 1992, and Patriarch Bartholomew accepted this decision at the time, as stated in a letter he sent to Moscow shortly after the censures. However, three years later, Patriarch Bartholomew received a group of Ukrainian autocephalist bishops called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, who had been in communion with Filaret’s group. While this move may have been motivated by the factor of Bartholomew’s almost total isolation within Istanbul, Turkey, it is nonetheless non-canonical.

This year’s moves have far exceeded previous ones, though, and now the possibility for a real clash that could cost lives is raised. With Filaret’s “church” – really an agglomeration of Ukrainian ultranationalists and Neo-Nazis in the mix, plus millions of no doubt innocent Ukrainian faithful who are deluded about the problems of their church, challenging an existing arrangement regarding Ukraine and Russia’s two most holy sites, the results are not likely to be good at all.

Here is the report about today’s developments, reprinted in part from OrthoChristian.com:

Meeting today in Kiev, the Synod of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) has officially changed the title of its primate, “Patriarch” Philaret, to include the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras under his jurisdiction.

The primate’s new official title, as given on the site of the KP, is “His Holiness and Beatitude (name), Archbishop and Metropolitan of Kiev—Mother of the cities of Rus’, and Galicia, Patriarch of All Rus’-Ukraine, Svyaschenno-Archimandrite of the Holy Dormition Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.”

…Thus, the KP Synod is declaring that “Patriarch” Philaret has jurisdiction over the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras, although they are canonically under the omophorion of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Philaret and his followers and nationalistic radicals have continually proclaimed that they will take the Lavras for themselves.

This claim to the ancient and venerable monasteries comes after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it had removed the anathema placed upon Philaret by the Russian Orthodox Church and had restored him to his hierarchical office. Philaret was a metropolitan of the canonical Church, becoming patriarch in his schismatic organization.

Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have clarified that they consider Philaret to be the “former Metropolitan of Kiev,” but he and his organization continue to consider him an active patriarch, with jurisdiction in Ukraine.

Constantinople’s statement also appealed to all in Ukraine to “avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties,” which the Synod of the KP ignored in today’s decision.

The KP primate’s abbreviated title will be, “His Holiness (name), Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine,” and the acceptable form for relations with other Local Churches is “His Beatitude Archbishop (name), Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine.”

The Russian Orthodox Church broke eucharistic communion and all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over this matter earlier this week. Of the fourteen local Orthodox Churches recognized the world over, twelve have expressed the viewpoint that Constantinople’s move was in violation of the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church. Only one local Church supported Constantinople wholeheartedly, and all jurisdictions except Constantinople have appealed for an interOrthodox Synod to address and solve the Ukrainian matter in a legitimate manner.

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