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Why Did the Hanoi Summit Fail and What Comes Next? The View from Russia
Author: Artyom Lukin
Region: Asia
Published July 29, 2019
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This chapter provides an overview of Russian expert commentary found in Russia’s media during the run-up to the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi and in its aftermath, covering the period of January to April 2019. The chapter also covers Kim’s first meeting with Vladimir Putin that took place in Vladivostok in late April. With regard to the Korean Peninsula’s nuclear problem, Russia’s commentariat traditionally splits into three groups. The first includes specialists who are more or less neutral toward North Korea. The second one is formed by experts who sympathize more with Pyongyang and tend to blame Washington and American allies for anything that goes wrong on the Korean Peninsula. The third group, now almost extinct in Russia, represents liberal and pro-Western pundits who loath the North Korean regime and view it as a major threat to international, and Russia’s, security.

Similar to Western media, the Russian press has extensively covered the preparations for the Hanoi summit, the event itself, and its outcomes. The tone of the Russian reporting did not differ much from that of the world’s media. Most of the Russian commentators sounded moderately optimistic prior to the two-day summit, expecting that at least something would come out of it. That the second Kim-Trump rendezvous failed to produce any deliverables came as a somewhat disappointing surprise to most Russian observers. Still, the general mood remained cautiously optimistic even after Hanoi’s apparent failure, with the prevailing majority of Russia’s Korea watchers believing diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington would continue and might eventually succeed.

The Russian commentary on the Vladivostok summit was generally positive, hailing the symbolism of Moscow’s return to the major leagues of Korean Peninsula geopolitics. At the same time, many experts pointed out that, beyond displaying the decorum of the traditional Russia-DPRK friendship, the Kim-Putin summit produced modest outcomes.

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