Russian president Vladimir Putin criticized North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test on Monday, but didn’t miss an opportunity to take a jab at the United States in his statement as well.

Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime conducted what has been called their “most successful” ballistic missile test to date on Sunday, launching their Hwasong-12 missile to a reported altitude of 2,111.5 kilometers (or 1,312 miles) before impacting its target some 489 miles away.  Based on the duration of flight and altitude reached, experts estimate the missile’s overall range to be close to 3,000 miles, placing U.S installations in Guam well within their potential strike radius.

According to U.S. intelligence officials, the North Korean Hwasong-12 (KN-17) missile splashed down in the Sea of Japan only 60 or so miles from the Russian coastline.  Although experts agree that the trajectory of the missile was likely chosen specifically to consider North Korea’s neighbors, its relative proximity to Russia at impact, a nation that hasn’t been shy about looking to improve relations with Kim’s regime, left many in the international community wondering how Putin would respond to the test.

Russia’s president didn’t leave them wondering for long, issuing a statement on Monday morning that said Russia opposes North Korea’s continued missile tests as well as their pursuit of nuclear weapons, but quickly alluding to faulting the United States for the state of relations with Kim’s regime.

“I want to confirm that we are categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear powers, including with the Korean Peninsula and North Korea,” said Putin, who added that any such move would be “harmful and dangerous.”

“But at the same time, we understand that what we have observed in the world recently, and specifically flagrant violations of international law and incursions into the territory of foreign states, changes in regime, lead to such kinds of arms races.”

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Although he did not mention the United States by name, Putin and the Russian government have accused the United States of trying to oust “legitimate” governments in Iraq, Libya and Syria in the past.

“In this connection, we need to act in a joined-up way, (and) strengthen the system of international guarantees with the help of international law and with the help of the U.N. Charter,” Putin said.  “We need to return to dialogue with North Korea and stop scaring it and find ways to resolve these problems peacefully.”

Finally, Putin made it clear that he did not perceive the location of the missile’s impact as any kind of threat to the Russian people. “This missile launch presented no threat to us, but it of course escalates this conflict and there is nothing good about that.”

Sunday’s test was the first conducted since South Korea’s election of President Moon Jae-in, who has promised to pursue a new level of talks with the North.  Many believe the new president will introduce a variant of a former South Korean president’s policy on North Korea, referred to as the “Sunshine Policy,” as established by Roh Moo-Hyun.  Moon, the first liberal to be elected after two conservatives, believes reintroducing humanitarian aid and joint economic projects will bring Kim back to the table, though he has also emphasized the importance of maintaining and even strengthening South Korea’s alliance with the United States.

 

Image courtesy of Reuters