The current geopolitical landscape has sparked the re-emergence of a strategic northern triangle aimed to diminish the US’s regional influence
The resumption of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) tests aims to target the US, whereas the short- and medium-range missile tests aim to counter regional defences and target US allies and assets.In recent times, animosity against America is consistently on the rise, and since 2022, North Korea's more than 100 missile tests and Kim's rejection of denuclearisation strained bilateral relations. North Korea has asserted that its nuclear weapons serve as a deterrent against potential attacks by the US. The resumption of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) tests aims to target the US, whereas the short- and medium-range missile tests aim to counter regional defences and target US allies and assets. Notably, after the failed denuclearisation talks, Pyongyang’s foreign policy plans appear to have undergone recent adjustments to account for new geopolitical realities, such as the Russia-US confrontation over Ukraine and the China-US tensions concerning Taiwan. Nonetheless, due to the imposition of extensive sanctions, threats, ongoing geopolitics, and regular military drills, North Korea has found itself in a challenging situation. In light of the current volatile international order, North Korea is further confronting the US by strategically aligning with Russia and China. The objective is to form a united front that can serve as a deterrent against the prevailing US policies.
North Korea has criticised the US for its intentions to isolate China in the Asia-Pacific region by refurbishing its long-term plan.The efforts of Pyongyang to strengthen its relations with China and Russia are not occurring in isolation, as both countries have exhibited growing support for the North Korean regime. This was particularly evident on 20 January 2022, when China and Russia exercised their veto power in the United Nations, preventing the imposition of additional sanctions on North Korea following its missile tests. Over the years, China and Russia have consistently advocated for the lifting of international sanctions on North Korea for humanitarian reasons and have actively encouraged diplomatic negotiations. This shared alignment has provided North Korea with the opportunity to conduct missile tests with relative freedom and frequency, allowing the country to advance its missile capabilities with minimal consequences. Concurrently, in the recent past, North Korea has engaged in discussions with Russia aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and demonstrated indications of preparing to partially resume trade between the two countries. In July 2022, North Korea officially recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, known as “people's republics,” which were backed by Russia, as independent states. This recognition was in contrast to the stance taken by most other countries, as only North Korea and Syria acknowledge the Russian annexations. In a recent message to Putin in June 2023, Kim vowed to “hold hands” with Putin, symbolising the deepening ties and growing cooperation between the two nations. Moreover, allegations have been made that Pyongyang has supplied weapons to Russia, while simultaneously pursuing the advancement of its own ballistic missile and nuclear weapons arsenal.
North Korea has engaged in discussions with Russia aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and demonstrated indications of preparing to partially resume trade between the two countries.Whereas, Beijing being the largest trading partner of Pyongyang has allowed the Kim regime to flourish over the years. However, Pyongyang's nuclear tests and missile launches challenged its relationship with Beijing. Beijing has been a constant advocate of a multilateral framework called Six-Party Talks, aimed to achieve Pyongyang’s denuclearisation. However, China's assertive actions in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, as well as its rivalry with the US, have created a strategic environment where its relationship with North Korea has flourished. A recent example of this was China's refusal to condemn the failed launch of North Korea's spy satellite, indicating a degree of support or tolerance towards North Korea's actions. Moreover, Pyongyang had relaxed its pandemic-related restrictions and resumed train operations between Sinuiju and Dandong to receive humanitarian assistance from Beijing. The continued strong relations with China and Russia serve as a protective measure for North Korea, shielding it from potential punitive actions by the US. However, the strategic benefits that China and Russia derive from North Korea's nuclear weapon development remain unclear. North Korea's missile testing serves multiple purposes, including evaluating the effectiveness of US and South Korean missile defence systems, such as THAAD, against its new ballistic missiles. This data could also be valuable for China and Russia as they seek to enhance their own missile capabilities and surpass US defence systems. Despite officially opposing North Korea's nuclear weapons mechanism, China and Russia view the survival of the regime as strategically important, as it acts as a buffer state against US influence. North Korea's WMDs serve as a reliable deterrent against a potential US attack on the regime, and it appears that China and Russia are willing to bear the associated costs.
North Korea's missile testing serves multiple purposes, including evaluating the effectiveness of US and South Korean missile defence systems, such as THAAD, against its new ballistic missiles.
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Abhishek Kumar Singh is a PhD Candidate in IR at Kookmin University Seoul on a GKS scholarship. He worked as a RA under an Indian ...Read More +