Russia and North Korea Poised to Restart Coal Transshipment Project Amid Growing Ties

Satellite imagery suggests Russia and North Korea may restart a key coal project, raising concerns over their growing ties and the potential impact on regional stability and global security.

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Hadeel Hashem
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Russia and North Korea Poised to Restart Coal Transshipment Project Amid Growing Ties

Russia and North Korea Poised to Restart Coal Transshipment Project Amid Growing Ties

Satellite imagery analysis suggests that Russia and North Korea may be on the verge of restarting a key joint coal transshipment project at the Rason port in northeast North Korea, which was halted over four years ago. The potential revival of this project comes amid growing economic and military ties between the two countries, raising concerns among the international community.

The Russian-operated pier where coal has started to pile up is located next to other piers that Russia and North Korea have been actively using in an apparent weapons transfer scheme since last August. A revival of the coal port could help further expand economic ties between the two nations and provide North Korea with an additional source of revenue from coal exports.

The deepening relationship between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin has alarmed China, which has historically provided aid and support to North Korea to maintain influence. China now faces pressure to win Pyongyang back from Moscow's orbit.

In response to the growing Russia-North Korea partnership, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged Russia and China to reverse course and stop rewarding North Korea's bad behavior and shielding it from sanctions over its weapons programs. During a visit to the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas, Thomas-Greenfield criticized Russia's veto and China's abstention in the annual renewal of the U.N. panel of experts that monitors the implementation of sanctions on North Korea.

The ambassador also met with young North Korean defectors in Seoul, pledging to raise the profile of human rights violations in North Korea and amplify their voices. Her trip to South Korea and Japan is aimed at discussing ways to deter North Korea's weapons programs and promote human rights in the reclusive state.

The possibility of Russia vetoing a UN resolution to extend the mandate of the Panel of Experts has raised concerns among UN diplomats. A Russian veto would mean the dissolution of the panel, which has been a 'technical roll-over' for the past 14 years. Russia and China have also sought 'sunset' clauses to parts of the sanctions regime on North Korea.

Why this matters: The potential restart of the Russia-North Korea coal transshipment project and the growing ties between the two countries have significant implications for regional stability and global security. The international community, particularly the United States and its allies, must take proactive measures to counter the threats posed by the Putin-Kim partnership and enforce sanctions on North Korea to curb its nuclear and missile programs.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield's visit to South Korea and Japan emphasizes the importance of deterring North Korea's weapons programs and promoting human rights in the country. As Thomas-Greenfield stated during her visit to the Demilitarized Zone, Russia and China's actions 'empower' North Korea's efforts to sidestep international sanctions and 'shield' it from accountability. The international community must remain vigilant and united in its efforts to address the growing challenges posed by the Russia-North Korea partnership.

Key Takeaways

  • Satellite imagery suggests Russia-NK coal transshipment project may restart.
  • Russia-NK ties deepen, alarming China which seeks to win NK back.
  • US urges Russia, China to stop rewarding NK's bad behavior and sanctions evasion.
  • UN panel of experts mandate renewal faces possible Russian veto, risking dissolution.
  • Russia-NK partnership poses threats to regional stability, requiring vigilant international response.