Tensions between East and West were turned up a notch today after Russia and China vetoed sanctions drawn-up by the US on North Korea at a meeting of the UN, meaning the country cannot be further punished for its recent missile tests. The Security Council, composed of 15 countries, voted 13-2 in favour of new sanctions. Moscow and Beijing called for dialogue between the world’s leaders and North Korea.
The vote comes as Russia endures a string of its own tough sanctions, the country being hit with multiple economic penalties following its invasion of Ukraine in February.
As Europe deliberates on how the conflict might affect the continent, one expert believes the war could have ramifications in Asia too.
North Korea expert Dr Sojin Lim, warned earlier this month that North Korea could be emboldened and accelerate its nuclear weapons programme because of events in Ukraine.
Dr Lim also suggested that Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin may strengthen their relationship.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk, she said: “The loyalty of military soldiers to the (North Korean) regime is not as strong as before.”
Noting that North Korea is “not well equipped for a war,” she added: “That is why for Kim Jong-un, his nuclear programme is the only strategy for survival and for him it has now become even more critical.
“Russia’s war in Ukraine doesn’t seem to be a good influence for North Korea, from our point of view.
“It confirmed the partnership between Western forces and the weakness of the Russian military compared to its own image.
“Because of that, it became clear to North Korea that nuclear weapons are the only way they can compete.”
Earlier this month, Kim warned that he was prepared to use nukes “preemptively” to “thoroughly contain and frustrate all dangerous attempts and threatening moves.”
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Dr Lim believes that this is a signal that North Korea could become “more offensive”.
She continued: “Kim Jong-un has signalled that he could become more offensive than defensive, as he mentioned a pre-emptive attack.
“He’s mentioned a number of conditions for him to become offensive, but he’s not specific.
“He’s kind of juggling again between different opinions to see how Western forces and South Korea’s new president would react. I think he himself is not too sure.”
North Korea is estimated to have an arsenal of approximately 30 to 40 nuclear weapons, and sufficient production of fissile material — materials which are a key component of nuclear weapons and can undergo the fission reaction — for six to seven nuclear weapons per year.
This week’s missile test is the 17th to take place in the country this year, and came after US President Joe Biden ended a three-day trip to South Korea following meetings with the newly elected President Yoon.
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They discussed the nuclear threat posed by Kim, and asked if he would meet the dictator, Mr Biden said “that would depend on whether he was sincere and whether he was serious”.
He added: “We are prepared for anything North Korea does.”
Asked if he had a message for Kim, Biden said: “Hello … period.”
The US President said his country had offered coronavirus vaccines to North Korea, which has reported nearly 2.5 million cases of “fever”, with almost 10 percent of its population taken ill.
He continued: “We’ve offered vaccines, not only to North Korea but to China as well. We’ve got no response.”
According to North Korea, its fight against COVID-19 has gone to plan, as Pyongyang says about 3.3 million people have been reported sick with fevers but only 69 have died.
The international community, however, has met these figures with scepticism.
Lee Yo Han, a professor at Ajou University Graduate School of Public Health in South Korea, told the Independent: “Scientifically, their figures can’t be accepted.
No one in the country has been vaccinated, despite offers from countries other than the US for a supply of jabs.
Before May 12, Kim had maintained a widely disputed claim that it had zero domestic infections for more than two years.