North Korea

N Korean leader pushes for anti-US front expansion, courts China


The move comes as Washington grapples with challenges from Ukraine and the Middle East.

N Korean leader pushes for anti-US front expansion, courts China

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un makes a speech during a visit to Dalian, China in this undated photo released on May 9, 2018 by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea made further overtures to China, highlighting their mutual history of opposition to the United States. The move  underscores its leader Kim Jong Un’s strategic push to solidify his anti-American united front as Washington grapples with resource allocation in Asia amidst challenges from Ukraine and the Middle East.

“The bond forged in blood between the people of the two nations will forever endure,” North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun said Wednesday, as it marked the 73rd anniversary of China’s intervention in the Korean War.

The state publication labeled the Korean War an “invasion by the allied imperialist forces,” lauding China by saying it had fought “side by side with our armies, sacrificing their blood and lives in the joint endeavor to defeat the common enemy.” The paper also underscored the bilateral “anti-imperialist” alliance.

China intervened in the Korean War to aid North Korea on Oct. 25, 1950, four months after the North attacked the South in June. Beijing refers to the intervention as “anti-American aid,” and likewise, Pyongyang views this day as a symbolic representation of its enduring friendship with China.

The message may hold significant weight, as Pyongyang often accentuates its longstanding bond with Beijing for strategic purposes, particularly when facing heightened geopolitical challenges. Historically, North Korea has displayed a tendency to reach out to China during times of international strain or in pursuit of diplomatic advantage, with the intent of amplifying its leverage on the global stage.

Over the past few weeks, North Korea’s foreign policy has shown signs of a larger strategy at play. From supporting Hamas, which attacked U.S.-ally Israel, to bolstering ties with Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, Pyongyang appears keen on crafting a united front against Washington.

Radio Free Asia, earlier this month, reported the possibility of Hamas militants using North Korean weapons, and South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff later confirmed the RFA reports with its intelligence assessing that the North appeared to have a military connection to Hamas.

Last week, a portrait of North Korean leader Kim appeared at an anti-U.S. protest in the West Bank, showing the close emotional connection of Palestine people against the U.S. and its allies standing with Israel. The Middle East conflict was a “tragedy created entirely by the United States,” North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Monday.

“Kim Jong Un seemingly perceives the emergence of a new Cold War could benefit his regime’s stability.” said Wang Son-taek, director of the Global Policy Center at the Han Pyeong Peace Institute. “At this juncture, circumstances appear conducive for the onset of such a geopolitical climate. Both North Korea and Russia are facing economic sanctions, and China is locked in a strategic rivalry with the U.S. These three nations alone could form a strong foundation for an anti-American alliance.”

Pyongyang’s primary objective is to establish and expand this alliance, Wang noted. Countries like Iran, Belarus, Syria, and Cuba could potentially join this coalition, and so could other BRICS nations under certain circumstances, he explained, referring to the bloc comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa and soon to include Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

“For Kim Jong Un, drawing these countries into the alliance could be a strategic advantage. He seems to be of the opinion that trading with these nations could be sufficient to ensure his regime’s survival and maintain its stability.”

Cheon Seong-whun, a former security strategy secretary for South Korea’s presidential office, also said that Kim Jong Un was demonstrating swift adaptability in the face of the emergence of what appears to be a new Cold War dynamic.

“Amidst the standoff between the U.S. and China, Kim Jong Un’s strategy leans towards a stronger alignment with China. Additionally, he is attempting to leverage the complexities in the Middle East and Europe to his benefit,” said Cheon, noting that the anti-American united front means a “total collapse” of the sanction regimes against North Korea.

These endeavors are not merely isolated incidents. They echo a larger global trend wherein nations are establishing new alliances in response to Washington’s Asia strategy. For instance, North Korea’s leader Kim and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met at the symbol of Russian space prowess in Russia’s Far East last month, and vowed to form an “anti-imperialist united front.” Pyongyang has been calling the U.S. and its allies  “imperialists.”  

The united front against the U.S. is already taking shape. RFA cited analysis by a private U.S. research organization the Institute for the Study of War as saying that the North could have already provided up to 500,000 pieces of ammunition to Russia, which could be used in its invasion against Ukraine.

That united front is showing signs of being multilateral with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying in Pyongyang last week that Moscow was seeking stronger cooperation with North Korea and China to counter the U.S. and its regional allies, as reported by Russian news organization Tass.

Tighter cooperation among the non-Western nations may amplify their leverage against the U.S. and its regional partners. The move may enhance their collective bargaining power and operational capabilities against the West, ultimately posing a challenge to Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy.  

“The U.S.’s Indo-Pacific strategy is facing significant hurdles,” Cheon said, noting that if it is properly implemented, not only the U.S., but also countries like Australia and Western Europe would concentrate on containing China, and consequently, North Korea would inevitably come under focus as well.

“Ultimately, North Korea would also face political, military, diplomatic and economic pressures. However, these pressures are currently dispersed due to conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, indicating a diminished cohesion,” Cheon noted. “Moving towards a new Cold War framework ensures regime survival in the medium to long term. Just as the previous Cold War era ensured Kim Il Sung’s regime stability, the new-Cold War context could secure the tenure of Kim Jong Un.”

Han Pyeong Peace Institute’s Wang also called for the U.S. and its allies to replace the Indo-Pacific strategy with a global initiative. 

“Given the U.S.’s role as a global hegemon, its interests should naturally encompass the entire world. Constricting its focus in the Indo-Pacific theater seems like self-imposed limitations on its global leadership,” Wang said.“A broader vision that resonates with the global community is essential.

He noted that operating under the paradigm of ‘new existence for peaceful coexistence’ and pressuring powers like China and Russia would make other nations more inclined to align.

“A global strategy, rather than a purely national or regional one, should be the way forward.”

Edited by Taejun Kang and Mike Firn.

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