[KS] Today's Le Monde

Mark Morris mrm1000 at cam.ac.uk
Fri Jun 5 16:09:56 EDT 2009

I will copy below a hasty translation from Le Monde. This is an article from
today (5 June). It looks at the DPRK from a Valdivostok angle. Seemed
interesting this morning at least.

Mark Morris



Le Monde     Friday 5 June 2009
ŒKim Jong-il, his aura, his preference for khaki¹
Letter from Russia, Marie Jégo
In the Far Eastern Russian port of Vladivostok, a nine-hour flight from
the nuclear test carried out by North Korea on the 25th of May has caused
quite a few headaches. Not on account of the level of radioactivity ­
meteorologists confirm the test was underground, the air has not been
contaminated ­ but due to the atmosphere of unease which has spread through
the population.
   Some claim to have felt the shock, others are worried about the next
ballistic missile launce announced for mid-June. Everyone remembers the
incident in 2006 when a North Korean missile went off trajectory to land
near Nakhoda, the other large commercial port of Russian Asia.
   ŒThere a whiff of powder on the border¹, headlined The Far Eastern News,
the local paper, in its 27 May edition. ŒIf North Korean carries on nuclear
tests, they will end in disaster¹,
the weekly gloomily predicted. Only 140 kilometres separate Vladivostok ­ in
Russian, ³master of the Orient² ­ from North Korea.
   The border is well guarded, contacts between the populations inexistent.
Eight thousand North Koreans are employed in the forestry camps but they are
scarcely visible in town, unlike the Chinese who are active in all the
marketplaces where they offer customers things Russia struggles to produce
(electronic appliances, clothing, meat, fruit and vegetables).
   Locked up tight 20 years ago, the Russian-Chinese border has become a
place of constant passage. Since 2001, Russians and Chinese have had no need
of visas to go have a look at the other side. [Š]
   Nothing like that on the North Korean side. In August of 2001 the border
post of Hassan witnessed the passage in top secrecy of ³dear leader² Kim
Jong-il¹s armoured train, on its way on the ten-day journey to Moscow and
St. Petersburg. On the occasion he was accompanied by General Konstatin
Poulikovski, the Kremlin¹s Far East representative, who escorted him on the
entire rail journey, keeping him company at lunch and dinner each day.
   The General has got a book out of it, Across Russia with Kim Jong-il.
Obviously the company of the ³dear leader² impressed him deeply. ŒConstantly
I sensed his powerful aura¹, he writes, dazzled by his Œextraordinary
ability to manage men¹ and his love of the colour khaki! In Russia, North
Korea is a model which seduces not just the Russian military ­ army reserve
general Leonid Ivachov passes regular vacations in Pyongyang ­ but also the
pro-Kremlin United Russia Party.
   On Saturday 30 May the the regional branch of the party of what opponents
call ³the pen-pushers² held its annual conference in Vladivostok. The
officials, a well-off caste, poured into the meeting in their Japanese 4 x
4s. Among foreign figures invited was the North Korean consul. Speaking
before the delegates, he assured his audience that his country was going to
continue its nuclear tests.
   He also invited Russia to take its place under the North Korean nuclear
The consul¹s diatribe was not condemned by any of those present. No question
of getting angry with a ³brother party². On the other hand, who covered the
conference were told not to report anything about the matter. The
territory¹s administration imposed tight control on things by calling
editors to make sure instructions are well respected.
  While the consul was being applauded in Vladivostok, in New York, at the
UN Security Council, advocated taking a firm line, while against sanctions.
ŒBasically, tensions on the peninsula work in our favour. We hope to take
advantage of our role as intermediary on behalf of the international
community¹, explains Mikhail Terski, director of Valdivostok¹s Centre for
Strategic Studies. 
   Russia is all the more concerned about North Korean nuclear technology
since, Œit¹s our own, that which we had provided to China, now the process
is slipping out of our control, and we can¹t do anything about it¹, notes
the geo-political specialist.
   For Moscow, the Pyongyang regime is a partner who it is wise to take care
of, a potential client for Russian arms and nuclear industry, just like Iran
and Venezuela.
At the moment, this client is low on cash, but one can always hope.
Eventually a branch of the Russian-Chinese gas pipeline beginning
construction this year will go to the border post of Hassan, where Gazprom
plans to build a plant for gas liquification.
   Moscow¹s support for its North Korean neighbour is also explained by fear
of seeing the United States create Œa unified Korea, bound to become
America¹s partner in world affairs,Œ declares the Independent on 3 June. The
daily warms: ŒHave no illusions, The United States, Japan and South Korea
have only one goal: to eliminate North Korea.¹

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