Moscow decided to double down on its complaints about joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises being conducted on the Korean peninsula by conducting their own show of force: flying intelligence gathering aircraft and nuclear capable “Bear” bombers through the region on Wednesday, an uncommon act even for Russia’s often aggressive air force.
The United States levied new sanctions against a number of Russian and Chinese organizations and officials earlier this week over their support of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. Although none of those sanctioned were official government entities for either state, this announcement makes it increasingly difficult for either nation to claim support for a denuclearized Korean peninsula. Furthermore, intercepted weapons shipments between North Korea and Syria seem to indicate not only that Russia has a funneling method to support North Korean efforts by way of their third-party ally, but also serves as further proof that Russian officials have lied about Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s possession of chemical weapons.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has seemed outwardly dismissive of concerns about a nuclear North Korea, while criticizing the United States’ efforts to dissuade Kim’s pursuit of the weapons systems.
“The US and South Korea holding yet more large-scale military and naval exercises does not help reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, said during a news briefing in Moscow. “We urge all sides to exercise maximum caution. Given the arms build-up in the region, any rash move or even an unintended incident could spark a military conflict.”