The North Korean play

The North Korean play
Syrian President Bashar Assad will reportedly be visiting North Korea in the near future. This will be the first summit that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would..

Syrian President Bashar Assad will reportedly be visiting North Korea in the near future. This will be the first summit that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would conduct with a foreign head of state in Pyongyang.

Background

The North Korean nuclear program has been a source of concern for the US and the international community for decades. Its nuclear program has especially been a concern for the international community. In 2017, North Korea has launched 23 missiles in the course of 16 tests. In November 2017, North Korea after seemingly two months of silence, tested its most potent missile. North Korea has isolated itself from the international community for decades. At the start of the Cold War, it only had formal ties with other communist nations. However, it opened itself up in the years to come and established ties with developing nations. It also joined the Non-Alignment Movement.  

Over the span of several centuries, Syria, which was at the forefront of the Islamic Caliphate witnessed multiple invasions and occupations. Due to the ongoing civil war, which has claimed the lives of thousands of civilians in the country, experts have noted that Syria is on the brink of being a failed state.

Ties between North Korea and Syria have solidified since the 1960s. The two nations maintain embassies in their respective capitals. In the 1960s, North Korea provided military assistance to Syria during its conflict against Israel. In addition, North Korea even built a nuclear reactor for Syria. This was based on the design of its own reactor at Yongbyon. This engagement further brought the nations together. It should be noted that in 2007, the reactor was destroyed as a result of an Israeli airstrike.

Analysis

Presently, both Syria and North Korea have been a cause of concern for the international community. Aid groups have condemned the ongoing civil war in Syria. Agencies have been unable to provide adequate aid to those affected by the war as transport at times has been obstructed. There are also regular airstrikes resulting in even more civilian casualties.

North Korea on the other hand, seemingly indicated that it was willing to suspend its decade long conflict against the US. In 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un revealed that he was willing to hold summits with the United States to end international isolation and even initiate denuclearization. However, doubt has been cast on this summit as both sides have continued to negotiate terms and conditions. Preparations are still underway for Kim and Trump's summit in Singapore.

Amidst these developments, the state media in North Korea has announced that Syrian President Bashar Assad will be visiting North Korea soon. This will mark Kim Jong Un’s first summit with a foreign head of state in Pyongyang. The report however has not revealed when the summit is likely to take place. However, North Korea’s state media, KCNA quoted Assad as stating, “I am going to visit the DPRK and meet HE Kim Jong Un,” using the acronym for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “HE” stands for “his excellency.”

“The world welcomes the remarkable events in the Korean Peninsula brought about recently by the outstanding political caliber and wise leadership of HE Kim Jong Un,” Assad was quoted as saying. “I am sure that he will achieve the final victory and realize the reunification of Korea without fail.”

The Syrian regime, he added, “will as ever fully support all policies and measures of the DPRK leadership and invariably strengthen and develop the friendly ties with the DPRK.”

It should be noted that in the past, the UN has accused North Korea of aiding Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons against its own citizens.

Kim Jong Un recently met with China’s leader, Kim Jong Un recently. He also met with South Korea head Moon Jae-In. In a recent meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kim Jong-Un said, “As we move to adjust to the political situation in the face of US hegemonism, I am willing to exchange detailed and in-depth opinions with your leadership and hope to do so moving forward,” official news agency KCNA reported.

Assessment

Our assessment is that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is clearly trying to solidify his relationship with all present allies. We believe that North Korea's increased diplomatic outreach that started with the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics earlier this year has given impetus to North Korea's ties with a number of other nations. This could be a form of insurance in case talks with America falls through. Experts have suggested that the latest development regarding Iran’s nuclear agreement is also likely to give North Korea cold feet. He could be concerned that America might not uphold its agreement and even seek a regime change if ties deteriorate. Thus, North Korea has suddenly opened its doors to all possible allies that could secure its future. 

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