Kim Jong un’s North Korean regime has worked tirelessly over the past year to expedite the development and production of their line of ballistic missiles, as well as nuclear warheads that are sufficiently miniaturized to be mounted on them.  The United States has taken the most public stance against Kim’s endeavor to solidify his nation’s position as the ninth nuclear state, but has seen support, either militarily or diplomatically, from a number of other nations.

Throughout these heightening tensions, however, two Pacific powers have continued to hedge their bets – making public statements in support of a denuclearized Korean peninsula, while seemingly supporting Kim’s efforts through media misdirection and even direct financial support: China and Russia.

Each of these states, as SOFREP has discussed before, have their own economic and political reasoning to lend their international leverage to Kim’s cause, but even as the U.S. levied sanctions against businesses and individuals within both China and Russia for supplying North Korea’s missile and nuclear initiatives last week, both nations remained, publicly, opposed to Kim’s continued violations of UN Resolutions pertaining to his growing nuclear stockpile.  However, new statements from Russian president Vladimir Putin may indicate a shift in Russia’s public position, pertaining to a nuclear North Korea.

Russia believes that the policy of putting pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile program is misguided and futile,” Putin said in an article released Thursday by the Kremlin.  “The region’s problems should only be settled through a direct dialogue of all the parties concerned without any preconditions. Provocations, pressure and militarist [sic] and insulting rhetoric are a dead-end road.”

At first glance, that might seem like a reasonable statement made by a man who is trying to bridge the gap between two parties – but reading between the lines, Putin’s statement insinuates that his government doesn’t believe the economic sanctions put in place by the international community, including both American and UN efforts, should be continued.  These sanctions are intended to strangle the flow of money from Kim’s weapons programs, but they have been hindered by Russia and China’s growing non-military trade with the reclusive state.

On Thursday, the United States and South Korea responded to North Korea’s most recent ballistic missile test, which saw an intermediate range missile fly over Northern Japan, by conducting a joint flight operation of two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers, four U.S. Marine F-35Bs, two Japan Air Self-Defense Force Koku Jieitai F-2s, and four South Korean Air Force F-15Ks over the Korean peninsula.

North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” said Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander, U.S. Pacific Air Forces.

“This complex mission clearly demonstrates our solidarity with our Allies and underscores the broadening cooperation to defend against this common regional threat,” O’Shaughnessy added. “Our forward-deployed force will be the first to the fight, ready to deliver a lethal response at a moment’s notice if our nation calls.”