Official Russia's position on the recent crisis sparked by the North Korean missile tests and the American warnings to Pyongyang ranged from evenhandedness to an approach condemning American unilateralism and muscle-flexing. Below is a survey of comments on the crisis and on North Korea's nuclear program:
Caption: "Nuclear Siamese twins"
(Source: twitter.com/sharzhipero, May 6, 2017; The logo on the bottom emphasizes that the cartoon was drawn in the Lugansk region of Eastern Ukraine that is controlled by pro-Russian separatists)
Russia Detects Launch Of Ballistic Missile From North Korea
On May 13, Russia's Defense Ministry reported that Russian early warning systems had detected the North Korean missile launch at about 23:30 Moscow time. The Russian Defense Ministry's statement read: "The missile early warning systems tracked the ballistic target during 23 minutes of its flight until it fell in the central part of the Sea of Japan (about 500 km away from the territory of Russia)." The statement also emphasized that the missile launch "posed no danger" for Russia, and that the Russian missile early warning systems and air defense alert were on routine combat duty.
The Russian news agency Tass reported routinely that North Korea had fired the ballistic missile from the north-west town of Kusong, where much of North Korea's military industry is based. Tass also carried Japan's assessment that the missile "flew about 800 km and fell in the sea outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone."
(Tass.com, May 14, 2017)
Senator Ozerov: Missile Not Directed To Russia, But Russia's Air-Defense Systems Remain On High Combat Alert
Senator Viktor Ozerov, who heads the Federation Council's Defense Committee, said that Moscow understands that Russia is not the target of a North Korean attack, but he added: "Nevertheless, in order to keep ourselves safe of possible incidents, our Far Eastern air-defense systems in a high state of combat-readiness."
(Ria.ru, May 14, 2017)
Putin: The West Should Stop Intimidating North Korea
Answering to media question about North Korea's missile launch, Russian President Vladimir Putin also said that it was of "no immediate threat" to Russia. However, Putin added that Moscow "categorically opposes any expansion to the club of nuclear powers." Putin said: "We have made our position clear to our partners, including the North Koreans. We consider this counterproductive, harmful and dangerous."
On the other hand, Putin mentioned the need to resume dialogue with North Korea, and to "stop intimidating" it. Putin said: "Dialogue with North Korea must be resumed, attempts to intimidate the country must stop and a way to settle these matters peacefully must be found. Is this possible? I believe so, especially considering the positive experience of such dialogue with North Korea. As you may remember, there was a period when North Korea announced the termination of its nuclear program. Regrettably, the negotiating parties failed to muster the patience to translate this intention into reality. I believe we should resume these discussions.
"As for the latest missile launch, the Russian Defense Minister reported to me about it immediately, and the issue was later covered in the media. I have nothing more to say on this. This launch did not present a direct threat to Russia. However, such launches can provoke a conflict, which is not good at all."
(Kremlin.ru, May 15, 2017)
Yuri Shvytkin, the deputy chair of the State Duma's Defense Committee, also commented: "Our country is acting in the framework of the international law and... calls on North Korea to refrain from launching various missiles. Having said that, I personally think, that we have to force the U.S. to stop the muscle-flexing games against North Korea...The dispatch of a naval squadron as well as the U.S. president's rather aggressive comments regarding North Korea, are triggering a defensive reaction... The U.S. should not unilaterally supplant the UN structure."
(Ria.ru, May 14, 2017)
Russia’s Ambassador to China Andrei Denisov said: "Security in this part of Northeast Asia is complex, as both North Korea’s nuclear-missile program and the military presence of other countries, particularly the U.S., pose a threat to the area. Large-scale military exercises are becoming more and more intimidating, inducing North Korea and other countries to take measures to support their national security."
(Tass.com, May 11, 2017)
Russian Diplomat: 'The Reason For Tensions On The Peninsula Lies... Also In The Increased Military Activity Of The United States"
On May 8, at the First Session of the Preparatory Committee of the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Cluster II. Non-proliferation and IAEA safeguards), Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Russian delegation, said: "Russia rejects the [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] DPRK's self-proclaimed nuclear status. We openly declare to Pyongyang our conviction that the policy of nuclear missile capacity building will not contribute to the security of the country. On the contrary, it will have devastating consequences for the DPRK and for the region as a whole. We advocate Pyongyang’s strong commitment to the relevant UNSC decisions, cease of all nuclear and missile tests and return to the NPT regime. It is important though to prevent restrictions from narrowing the window of opportunities for the negotiations, as well as from escalating the humanitarian situation in the DPRK.
"Still we are convinced that the reason of tensions on the peninsula lies not only in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs but also in the increased military activity of the United States and its allies in North-East Asia. It is evident that Pyongyang will not abandon its nuclear weapons as long as it feels that its security is directly threatened. And that is how it interprets regular maneuvers and exercises carried out by U.S.-centered military and political alliances in North-East Asia, alongside the escalation of the U.S. military presence, in particular, deployment of THAAD anti-ballistic missile systems in South Korea.
"The problems of the Korean Peninsula, including the nuclear issue, should be dealt with through an integrated solution to the whole spectrum of issues arising between the parties concerned so as to further create conducive environment for denuclearization. This requires de-escalation of overall military and political tensions, abandonment of further military infrastructure build-up, reduction of the ongoing maneuvers, and establishment of a trust-based climate among the States of the region."
(Mid.ru, May 8, 2017)
Kremlin-Founded Think Tank's Director: Russia-U.S. Relations Can Help Ease Asian-Pacific Tensions
Mikhail Fradkov, Director of the Kremlin-founded Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), said: "the Asian-Pacific direction today is one of the hottest in international relations. Unfortunately, it may appear that the region may literally become hot. What we see here is a snarl of potentially explosive issues, and we all need to join our forces to find peaceful solutions to them using only political means... It is extremely important to activate personal contacts between the Russian and the U.S. presidents during such critical moments in history like this one. Russian-American relations to a great extent identify the general level of security in the whole world."
(Riss.ru, May 3, 2017)
RISS Analyst Konstantin Kokarev wrote: "The things that are currently happening in northeast Asia directly affect the national security interests of Russia. A targeted concentration of significant military forces of the US in the region and the statements by North Korean leader Kim Jong UN on his readiness for preventive strike with nuclear weapons can result in significant loss of life, permanently and seriously undermine the overall stability, interaction and cooperation in the region. This is a highly undesirable scenario.
"There is only one way out, which to seek solution of the problem exclusively through negotiations and compromise involving all the stakeholders. Russia has consistently advocated the early resumption of six-party talks, peace-building and mutually beneficial cooperation in the region, including in a trilateral format between Russia, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea."
(Riss.ru, April 28, 2017)
Senator Kosachev: Passing The U.S. Bill On Enforcing N. Korea Sanctions On Foreign Territory Is A 'Declaration Of War'
Russia has reacted to a bill adopted by the U.S. Congress, tightening sanctions against North Korea. If the law is passed, the U.S. president will have to provide Congress with a complete annual report, covering a period of five years, listing the ports and airports involved in the violation of sanctions against North Korea by any country. In particular, this refers to Vladivostok, Nakhodka and Vanino, as well as ports in China, Iran, Syria and other countries.
Commenting on the bill, head of the Federal Council's Committee for International Relations, Senator Konstantin Kosachev said: "The realization of this [U.S.] bill includes a proposed force scenario in which the U.S. Navy would conduct compulsory inspections of all ships. Such a scenario is simply unthinkable because it means a declaration of war." The bill has to be passed by the U.S. Senate and then signed by the U.S. president. Kosachev expressed his hope that Kosachev expressed the hope that the bill won't pass.
The Deputy Chairman of the State Duma's Committee for Defense and Security, Frants Klintsevich, also commented: "What immediately draws attention is the list of nations where U.S. congressmen want to have special control over sea ports. These are Russia, China, Iran and Syria. The United States is again trying to expand its jurisdiction all over the globe. It is as if they were telling Russia, China, Iran and Syria that these nations are suspects in crime, which is nonsense, according to international law."
(Uawire.org, May 5, 2017; .Rt.com, May 5, 2017)
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6891, Popular Pro-Kremlin Presenter Says Trump Is More Dangerous Than Kim Jong-Un, April 24, 2017.