Alexander Matsegora, the Russian ambassador to Pyongyang. (TASS/Yonhap)
The Russian ambassador to Pyongyang warned that North Korea might carry out another nuclear test if the US continues to take “provocative steps” on the Korean Peninsula.
“I think whether or not there will be another nuclear experiment in North Korea depends on how the military-political situation on the peninsula will unfold. If expanded US-South Korean nuclear deterrence [. . .] or other provocative steps toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continue or if US Air Force strategic bombers continue to fly over the peninsula, the North Korean leadership may as well decide to conduct a new nuclear test for the sake of further strengthening of its defense capabilities,” Alexander Matsegora said in an interview with Russian news agency TASS on Wednesday.
Another nuclear test by North Korea would be its seventh such test. Analysts have been saying since 2022 that another nuclear test is imminent.
Matsegora also said that “North Korea doesn’t seek war” before warning, once again, that “whether 2024 will be a peaceful year in Korea or whether there will be a military conflict depends entirely on the Americans.”
“The situation on the Korean Peninsula is a major concern, primarily because of the Americans’ adventurist policies. For seeing what the United States is doing in the Middle East, who may guarantee that they will not launch a similar attack here, in the Far East, after bombing Yemen’s Houthis?” the diplomat asked.
The Russian ambassador also noted that Nikki Haley, a candidate in the US Republican Party’s presidential primaries, has called for the assassination of the Iranian leader, and that Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the foreign-facing arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was assassinated by the US military during the presidency of Donald Trump.
“How can we be sure that the Americans do not have similar goals against North Korea?” Matsegora asked.
As an example of Washington’s “provocative steps” against North Korea, the Russian ambassador cited continuing flights above the Korean Peninsula by strategic bombers with the US Air Force.
Matsegora also addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expected visit to North Korea, which is a matter of keen interest. While the ambassador declined to mention the timing of the visit, he did say that work is underway on a joint document promoting tourism between the two countries for Putin to sign while he is there.
Last month, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that Putin’s visit would take place after Russia’s presidential election (March 15-17).
In the interview, Matsegora made mention of North Korea’s attitude toward inter-Korean relations.
“The North Korean leader took unprecedented steps once, in 2018-2019, in order to normalize relations with the South and reached out to the South Koreans on many points,” he said. “The time is now gone and there is no way back. At least, this is what our North Korean friends think now.”
“The North Korean authorities believe that the time has passed for achieving unification with the South,” TASS said in summary.
Matsegora noted that the US had opposed an agreement on economic cooperation between South and North Korea and that the agreement had been thwarted because South Korea did not dare defy the US.
It’s true that Kim held two summits with then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in and three with Trump during 2018 and 2019. During his second summit with Trump, in Hanoi in late February 2019, Kim offered to shutter the Yongbyon nuclear facility, a symbol of North Korea’s nuclear development, in exchange for the US arranging for the UN Security Council to lift sanctions it had imposed on the North since 2016, but Trump rejected that offer.
Since then, North Korea-US dialogue has effectively been on pause, and there has not been any meaningful communication between South and North Korea either.
Kim proclaimed a total rupture with South Korea in a policy speech to the Supreme People’s Assembly on Jan. 15, defining inter-Korean relations as “the relations between two states hostile to each other.”
By Hong Seock-jae, staff reporter
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