Joint Russian-Chinese statement on Korean conflict recognises North Korea’s ‘justified concerns’, opposes military action, and effectively rules out across-the-board sanctions.
Since this document is not easy to find, I set out the full text with the key points highlighted
The Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are the Korean Peninsula’s neighbours, therefore the development of the situation in the region concerns the national interests of both countries. Russia and China will closely coordinate their efforts in order to promote a complex solution to the Korean Peninsula’s problems, including that of the nuclear issue, for the sake of achieving a lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia. In the spirit of strategic cooperation the foreign ministries of Russia and China (hereinafter referred to as Parties) state the following:
1. The Parties are seriously worried by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)’s statement of July 4, 2017 about a ballistic missile launch and consider this statement unacceptable and in disharmony with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
2. The Parties express serious concern about the development of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and around it. Mounting political and military tension in that region, fraught with the eruption of an armed conflict, are calling on the international community to adopt collective measures to settle the situation peacefully through dialogue and consultations. The Parties oppose any statements or moves that might escalate tension or aggravate the contradictions and urge all countries concerned to maintain calm, renounce provocative moves or bellicose rhetoric, demonstrate readiness for dialogue without preconditions and work actively together to defuse tension.
3.The Parties are putting forward a joint initiative, which is based on the Chinese-proposed ideas of “double freezing” (missile and nuclear activities by the DPRK and large-scale joint exercises by the United States and the Republic of Korea) and “parallel advancement” towards the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and the creation of peace mechanisms on the peninsula, and the Russian-proposed stage-by-stage Korean settlement plan.
The Parties propose the following:
The DPRK, by way of a voluntary political decision, announces a moratorium on the testing of nuclear explosive devices and ballistic missile tests, and the United States and the Republic of Korea should, accordingly, refrain from large-scale joint exercises. Simultaneously, the conflicting parties begin talks and assert common principles of their relations, including the non-use of force, the renunciation of aggression, peaceful coexistence and determination to do all they can to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula with a view to promoting a complex resolution of all problems, including the nuclear issue. During the negotiating process, all parties concerned push forward, in a format suitable to them, the creation on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia of a peace and security mechanism and consequently normalise relations between the countries in question.
The Parties urge the international community to support the aforementioned initiative that paves the real way for resolving the Korean Peninsula’s problems.
4.The Parties are resolutely committed to the international non-proliferation regime and are firmly aimed at the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and a comprehensive and full implementation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. The Parties intend, jointly with other parties concerned, to continue making efforts to facilitate the balanced removal of the existing concerns via dialogue and consultations.
The Parties confirm that the DPRK’s justified concerns should be respected.Other states must make relevant efforts to have talks resumed and jointly to create an atmosphere of peacefulness and mutual trust.
The Parties are calling on all parties involved to comply with the commitments formulated in the Joint Statement of September 19, 2005, and to re-launch, as soon as possible, the dialogue on the comprehensive resolution of problems on the Korean Peninsula. Any possibility of using military means to solve the problems of the Korean Peninsula should be ruled out.
5. The Parties express support for the North and the South of the Korean Peninsula to conduct dialogue and consultations, display benevolence towards each other, improve relations, cooperate in the matter of a peaceful settlement, and play a due role in defusing the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in resolving its problems in a proper manner.
6. The Parties confirm that they are paying sufficient attention to the maintenance of the international and regional balance and stability, and emphasise that allied relations between separate states should not inflict damage on the interests of third parties. They are against any military presence of extra-regional forces in Northeast Asia and its build-up under the pretext of counteracting the DPRK’s missile and nuclear programmes.
The Parties confirm that the deployment of THAAD antimissile systems in Northeast Asia is inflicting serious damage on strategic security interests of regional states, including Russia and China, and does nothing to help achieve the aims of the Korean Peninsula’s denuclearisation, nor to ensure peace and stability in the region.
Russia and China are against the deployment of the said systems, call on the relevant countries to immediately stop and cancel the deployment process, and have agreed to adopt the necessary measures to protect the two countries’ security interests and to ensure a strategic balance in the region.
This statement was signed on July 4, 2017, in Moscow.
For the Ministry of Foreign Affairs For the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
of the Russian Federation of the People’s Republic of China
(bold italics added)
The key points to take away from this statement are the following
(1) The Russians and the Chinese are coordinating their positions on the Korean issue “in the spirit of their strategic cooperation” (ie. their alliance). What this means in effect is that China can count on Russia’s support in its dealings with the US on the Korean issue.
(2) The Russians and the Chinese accept that North Korea has justified security concerns and consider that these should be respected. In other words they both oppose regime change in North Korea.
(3) The Russians and the Chinese categorically oppose any US military action against North Korea. The Russians support the Chinese initiative whereby
(i) North Korea freezes its nuclear testing and ballistic missile programme;
(ii) the US and South Korea cease further joint military exercises on the Korean Peninsula;
(iii) the US and North Korea, and North Korea and South Korea commence direct talks with each other aimed at a comprehensive settlement of the conflict on the Korean Peninsula (“the comprehensive resolution of problems on the Korean Peninsula”).
(3) The Russians and the Chinese consider the US’s deployment of THAAD on the Korean Peninsula destabilising and a threat to the international balance of power.
In comments today Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov – unquestionably expressing the joint view of the Russian and Chinese governments – explicitly rejected the idea of regime change in North Korea or of seeking to suffocate North Korea by imposing across the board sanctions upon it.
“For Russia and China, it is absolutely clear that any attempts to justify a belligerent solution, using the UN Security Council’s resolutions as a pretext, are unacceptable and will lead to unpredicted consequences in the region, which neighbours Russia and China,” Lavrov said, noting that the attempts of “strangling” North Korea’s economy are unacceptable.
The task set by the UN Security Council is to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, and it should not be used as an attempt to change the regime in North Korea, Lavrov said. “We assume that the task that has been set by the UN Security Council is to denuclearize the whole Korean Peninsula, and it cannot and should not be used as a pretext to try and change the regime in North Korea,” he said
(bold italics added)
Right at the start of this latest twist in the North Korean crisis I predicted that China would refuse the Trump administration’s request for comprehensive across-the-board sanctions on North Korea, and that the Trump administration’s threats against North Korea would simply harden China’s support for North Korea.
To the extent that it is possible to see a strategy behind the latest US moves, it seems to be to frighten the Chinese into abandoning North Korea by threatening them with a war in the Korean Peninsula if they don’t, with a big trade deal thrown in as a sweetener.
This is the sort of approach that might makes sense in the cut-and-thrust US property industry which Donald Trump knows. However the trouble with this frankly amateur approach is that it gravely underestimates the strength of feeling in China.
Whilst it is doubtful that most Chinese think or care much about North Korea, the Chinese leadership would face a severe internal crisis if it appeared to back down in the face of US threats. An actual or pending US attack on North Korea would therefore be far more likely to strengthen Chinese support for North Korea than to weaken it.
(bold italics added)
So it has proved. The Chinese response to the latest North Korea missile launch is not to threaten North Korea but to warn the US against military action whilst ruling out across-the-board sanctions and regime change. Moreover China – contrary to its previous practice and its probable wishes – has been driven to state this clearly and in public, and has enlisted Russia’s support.
Kim Jong-un will no doubt go through the motions of rejecting China’s proposal. He can do so in the confident knowledge that there will be no penalty since the US will reject it also. In the meantime he has pocketed assurances from China and Russia that they will not impose across-the-board economic sanctions on his country.