It is important to understand the limitations of the leverage Russia has in region and, even more so, to understand how to most proficiently use it.
- Although the possibility of drastic changes in North Korea remains small and the occurrence of a major crisis unlikely, it is necessary to constantly monitor the situation and maintain normal relations with the leadership of both South Korea and North Korea. Coming from a position of political realism, we should not ignore Russia’s unique political capital – its longstanding relations with the North Korean elite – regardless of negative perceptions in Russian society of the North Korean state structure. These relations are can and should be put to use not for the sake of preserving or indulging negative trends but rather to promote the positive evolution of the system and elite, particularly the upcoming younger generation. For the US, China and South Korea, Russia’s participation in six-party negotiations is only valued in so much as Russia can influence North Korea. While relations with South Korea are valuable in their own right, there are certain limits to this cooperation due to the strong American influence on the policies of its important ally in Asia.
- The only sensible path to resolving the nuclear issue is to take into consideration a number of concerns of Pyongyang with the aim of reducing the significance of the nuclear deterrence factor. Russian interests in promoting denuclearization coincide with those of the United State, Japan and South Korea. However, it should be recognized that, at least for Russia, outside the context of the resolution of Korean issues, the complete liquidation of North Korea’s nuclear potential is not an absolute or single most important priority, and it is of an ancillary nature in relation to other issues. If denuclearization takes place without the creation of a stable system of collective security, then the risks of military conflict may actually increase.
- Today’s agenda should probably include the freezing of the rocket and nuclear potential of North Korea along with the country’s acceptance of verifiable obligations without pretensions of recognition as a nuclear power and compliance with the requirements of Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, perhaps as a participant with a “special” status. Further down the road steps should be taken toward the abandonment of the military nuclear component in the future, when non-military mechanisms for providing for the security of North Korea are found, which could include the creation of a zone free of nuclear weapons. It would be prudent to launch initiatives to develop (perhaps in consultation with the Chinese sponsors of the negotiations) and propose to members of the Six-Party Talks and international organizations a “roadmap” for accomplishing these goals.
- As the six-party negotiation process wanes, Russia should come forward with its own initiatives in order to avoid being left out of future efforts to resolve Korean issues. For example, given the pause in six-party negotiations, we could put forward again our initiative to call a multilateral diplomatic conference on Korea (as the post-war agreements stipulated) with participation of the same six countries as well as the United Nations (possible under the auspices of this organization, which formally was a participant of the military conflict in Korea) and the International Atomic Energy Agency. There is danger that the decision-making process will shift to a format for discussing a new peacekeeping regime (US-South Korea-North Korea and China). It is in Russia’s interest to promote a concept for creating a multilateral mechanism for guaranteeing security in Northeast Asia as a new peacekeeping regime for Korea.  At the same time, the ideas of creating some sort of five-state effort coordination mechanism (under the leadership of the United States) in relation to Pyongyang is fraught with aggressive posturing and would present a risk of alienating North Korea from Russia.
- Moscow should bolster its efforts to preserve its position in North Korea, in particular in the economic and cultural spheres. Participation in sanctions should be examined with Russia’s long-term interests in mind. Finding a more flexible approach to resolving the issue of North Korea’s debt to Russia could serve as symbol of our recognition of the current reality and a demonstration political will to improve bilateral relations in the interest of strengthening security in this neighboring region.
Looking to the future we see a number of major projects that could be brought to life, for example, the linking of the Trans-Siberian railroad to Korea railroad infrastructure. A vivid example could be the revitalization of the project to build a line from Khasan to Rajin to transport containers from South Korea. 
It would be farsighted be keep on the front burners projects for building power lines across the territory of North Korea to South Korea as well as natural gas supply infrastructure throughout the Korean peninsula. Negotiations on denuclearization could also incorporate the construction of an atomic power plant in North Korea, and participation in such a project would require a significant amount to preparatory work. 
Given the fact that the population and a good portion of the elite has a positive perception of Russian culture and “Russkiy Mir”, it would be appropriate to fully examine our approach to cultural cooperation with North Korea and to implement programs promoting Russian language and culture, particularly considering the fact that some progress has already been made.
In relations with South Korea the problems of the past have largely been liquidated or mitigated and a healthy political dialog has been established, including on global issues (in particular through the G20 format). Our strategy in relation to this country, which is an economic player not only on the regional but also on global level, should give priority to the economic component, with an aim of achieving partnership on equal footing and the participation of South Korea in the long-term development of Russia’s Far East. And this is where the strategic nature of our relations is to be found. South Korean should be seen not only as a market for our resources but also a market for our technologies, and on a mutually beneficial basis. The conditions are also ripe for cultural engagement. At the same time, Russia should carefully deflect attempts by Seoul to dictate our behavior on the Korean peninsula and in relations with North Korea, and thus position itself as a potential arbitrator of inter-Korean disputes.
 The remarkable achievements of North Korean researchers and engineers in the development of liquid-fueled multistage rockets (in particular the successful testing in April 2009 of a three-stage rocket) is a clear indication of Pyongyang’s intention to acquire rocket delivery vehicles with a reach of several thousand kilometers. The uncontrolled export of rockets and rocket technology, including to radical Islamic regimes (which serves as an important source of hard currency for Pyongyang), is something that troubles Russia.
 The complete abandonment by North Korea of its nuclear programs is not very likely, as stripping a country of its right to pursue peaceful nuclear programs contradicts the principles of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which North Korea is being implored to rejoin. In principle it is possible to reach an agreement on the halting of production of new weapons grade nuclear materials and the dismantling of nuclear facilities (particularly those that produce their own fuel). However, the establishment of international control over nuclear materials and particularly nuclear weapons would require a major change in the situation. But in this case, as the experience in Iraq reminds us, we should not expect the North Korean leadership to agree to wide-scale intrusive inspections, access to North Korean nuclear specialists, and verification mechanisms sufficient to satisfy the global community.
 The possibility that a united Korea might have territorial claims against China cannot be ruled out.
 The possibility that a united Korea might have territorial claims against China cannot be ruled out. Several Japanese citizens were abducted by the North Korean regime in the 1970s for reconnaissance and sabotage purposes. The North Koreans did not find this practice to be particularly shameful, and considered them to prisoners of war and sources of information, given the fact that the war was never officially concluded. Kim Jong-Il and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2002 attempted to resolve the issue – Kim Jong-Il admitted that the abductions had taken place and apologized. However, the Japanese public began to demand unrealistic penitence and compensation from Pyongyang.
 Efforts should be reinvigorated within the Working Group on a Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism chaired by Russia, which has agreed upon the principle content of the Guiding Principles of Peace and Security in Northeast Asia as the first step toward a multilateral regional security system. It would be prudent to focus on reliable and effective security guarantees for all participating countries that would be obligatory nature and not dependent of domestic political development. Russia should authoritatively present this position to its negotiation partners. We should clearly articulate our opposition to foreign military presence in Korea following unification. Such a presence could only be targeted against China or Russia, particularly considering the frontline positioning of US military forces on the Korean peninsula and in Japan under the umbrella of the Theater Missile Defense system being set up by the Americans in the region.
 The operator of the project is Russian Railways, which is counting on South Korean investment in the project. Following Seoul’s shift toward a hard-line policy in relation to North Korea, the company is apprehensive about investing funds, and decisive steps by the Russian side could serve as a positive signal. The endless protraction of this relatively modest project devalues the political declarations by Russian leaders on this project. North Korea has on multiple occasions confirmed its interest in linking the trans-Korean railroad with the trans-Siberian railroad, and by all indications is prepared under certain conditions to offer its territory for the construction of electricity and gas lines from Russia to South Korea. The cautious approach of North Korea to trilateral projects can be explained by the high political risk that accompanies them. It is possible that if Russia takes these risks upon itself (for example, it will guarantee the gas and electricity supplies on DAF conditions to the demilitarized zone), then Seoul will agree to participate in such projects.
 Atomic power plants based on light-water reactors are quite critical to North Korea’s energy security, and to this day the agreement reached with the USSR in 1985 on the construction of an atomic power plant has not been canceled. However, such a project would be very difficult to implement given the high level of competition for the other countries of the six-party group, and particularly from South Korea. In this regard it might be more promising to begin our cooperation with North Korea under the framework of the International Uranium Enrichment Center, of course, under the condition that Pyongyang complies with the necessary international requirements and obligations. But this position needs to be expressed today.
IV. Nautilus invites your responses
The Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network invites your responses to this essay. Please send responses to: email@example.com. Responses will be considered for redistribution to the network only if they include the author’s name, affiliation, and explicit consent.
"The Korean Peninsula: Challenges and Opportunities for Russia", NAPSNet Special Reports, October 07, 2010, http://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-special-reports/the-korean-peninsula-challenges-and-opportunities-for-russia/