A number of sources reported on May 21st, June 25th, and July 4th, "The reason that summit talks between North Korea and Russia have been put off is because Russia refuses to sell its high tech weapons systems to North Korea."
In contrast with the view of certain media and regional experts, "During the early to mid summer period, Kim Jong-il is usually in bad shape and he doesn’t usually prepare for such meetings. However, the reasons for cancellations are in fact nothing to do with his physical state," said the source.
The Kyodo News Agency and Mainichi Daily reported June 28th, "There is a possibility that Kim Jong-il and President Medvedev will meet in Russia's Far-east at the end of this month."
But Medvedev's press secretary Natalia Timakova said, "President Medvedev has made no plans in his Vladivostok schedule to meet with Chairman Kim Jong-il. We have not issued a single word about a visit to Russia by the North Korean leader."
On the other hand, an official in Vladivostok last week was quoted as saying, "We are preparing for the visit of Kim Jong-il," again raising the prospect of a meeting between the two leaders. A regional official related to the police then claimed, "Chairman Kim Jong-il's visit has been cancelled," shrouding the events behind the proposed talks in mystery.
So was there ever really a planned meeting between Kim Jong-il and Vladimir Medvedev?
"A meeting was informally planned," related our source on May 21st, "but there were a number of issues which had to be resolved before it could go ahead." One of those issues is the advance made by China into North Korea's Rajin-Sonbong region and by implication therefore into Russia's strategically important far eastern regions.
"Russia's economic and financial situation has been steadily improving," a source went on, "and it sees China as a strategic partner. But it is instinctively wary of any encroachment into the Pacific by China's navy, something that could happen via the Rajin-Sonbong port."
"In his August 2008 visit to China, Kim Jong-il pressed Hu Jin-tao to sell North Korea its latest fighters. China refused and so North Korea turned to Russia and proposed summit talks," reported one source. "Instead of talks the Russian's proposed that North Korea provide it with high level top secret military information." This was difficult for the North Koreans to accept and at a meeting of the Central Party Military Committee led by Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un in June, it was decided to decline the offer.
"The matter of the purchase of high tech weaponry from Russia was already under discussion," said a source on July 4th. "But North Korea decided it couldn't accept Russia's condition of providing access to its military's secrets and so Russia-North Korea summit talks were cancelled on the pretext of there being nothing to consult upon. But their cancellation stemmed from both countries’ refusals."
However, according to a report out of Vladivostok in the Asahi Shimbun, July 1st, "A high-ranking official of the Russian government said, "President Medvedev and Chairman Kim are still consulting on the matter of a summit meeting. Any such meeting has not been permanently cancelled. Rather it is a question of until when it has been deferred." How the two countries' arms deal progresses is a matter worthy of observation.
The first conclusion that can be drawn from the issue is that North Korea's purchase of high tech Russian weaponry is apparently a matter of some urgency. Secondly, North Korea's big power allies China and Russia no longer automatically assent to whatever North Korea may propose. They will take an approach to North Korea and the Korean peninsula which prioritizes their own national interests.
The question that also must be addressed is why would the same North Korea that is begging the western world for food support be seeking to invest astronomical sums in high tech weaponry? When asked if it was reasonable to see it as indirect evidence that the North intends further attacks on the South, the source answered in the affirmative.
The Joong Ang Ilbo carried a report on page 2 of its May 19th edition. "North Korea's current construction of an air support base at Goampo in Hwanghae province just 50 kms from Baekryeong Island is a considerable threat." quoting the opinion of a South Korean government officials related to the Ministry of National Defense.
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