From the joint communiqué issued in Moscow Tuesday, April 2, one would imagine that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin had found nothing at all to discuss about the pressing crises over Korea, Syria and Iran.
All that seemed to happen was a meeting in a “friendly atmosphere” confirming the "special relations" between Russia and China. However, while Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have avoided looking at the connotations of the Korean issue for the two Middle East trouble spots, the Russian and Chinese presidents closely analyzed their reciprocal impact, drew conclusions and resolved to carry on with their Korean and Middle East policies as before.
Interestingly, Moscow and Beijing have never mentioned North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Un whenever they urged restraint on the three parties caught in the spiraling Korean standoff.
And not by chance: DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Moscow disclose that one conclusion shared by Putin and Xi Jinping was that a limited North Korean military adventure might do both their interests in the Middle East some good.
For instance, a smallish military episode in the Far East might have the effect of easing some of the pressure on Syria’s Bashar Assad and save his regime, while also diverting American and Israeli minds from contemplation of a possible strike on the Iranian nuclear program.
Important Chinese and Russian military moves unnoticed
Conveniently for them, Western media watch like hawks the slightest North Korean move, whether real or not, and every US military step, while ignoring Chinese and Russian military movements synchronous with the Korean crisis.
So the Pentagon’s latest decision Wednesday, April 3, to send an advanced THAAD-Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery to the Pacific island of Guam to defend the US base against a North Korean missile attack was widely reported, along with the Pentagon’s expectations of the long-term danger of a North Korean attack.
So, too, were Pyongyang’s repeated war threats against the United States and its allies.
But no one covered Chinese tank and armored vehicle movements and air force flights which continued near the North Korean border in “Daqing in the northeastern Heilongjan Province and the border city of Shenyang in Liaoning Province.”
Neither did Russia’s Black Sea war games, starting on March 28, attract attention, although they were suddenly ordered by Putin without warning. He even caught the Russian chief of staff on the hop.
And the games were no laughing matter: According to Kremlin figures, they involved about 7,000 Russian servicemen: Special Forces and Marine units and airborne rapid deployment troops.
Over thirty Russian warships based out of the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol in the Crimean Peninsula and the Russian port of Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai were mobilized.
All of Russia’s different services were pressed into the mock war game as a test of their interoperability and demonstration of Russia’s capacity to mobilize for any eventuality at the drop of a hat.
How to cool Kim’s enthusiasm for playing brinkmanship with Washington
The young, inexperienced North Korean ruler correctly read the signals from Moscow and Beijing:
On Wednesday, the day after the Russian-Chinese summit, Pyongyang again raised temperatures by advising the United States in its state media to prepare to be "smashed" by "cutting edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means."
Although Beijing, Moscow, Pyongyang, Tehran and Damascus are not bound by formal treaties, they are linked by a strong, invisible thread which is tugged in all five capitals by any sign of American weakness which any or all of them can exploit.
Therefore, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s pledge of a "measured" response to Pyongyang's aggressive threats will not have the desired effect of lowering the tensions emanating from the Korean Peninsula.
It would be much more useful for US Secretary of State John Kerry to take a break from his far less urgent Middle East peace mission (see a separate article in this issue about Mahmoud’s plans for a “civil uprising’) and travel to Moscow and Beijing to discuss an integrated deal covering Iran, Syria, and North Korea.
Some give and take on all three crises might persuade the Russian and Chinese rulers to start bringing Kim Jong-Un to heel.
So long as Putin and Xi Jinping see Washington continuing to pursue separate tracks in the Middle East, especially against Syria and Iran, they have no incentive for curbing young Kim’s enthusiasm for the game of brinkmanship with America.
Informed sources in Washington have disclosed President Barack Obama’s latest posture on North Korean bellicosity as “strategic patience.” None of the sources could explain exactly what this means.
Maybe Kim can.