Such an alliance is not the key to North Korea’s survival, when its threats and crises are internal. Crucially, both Russia and China are opposed to its nuclear tests. And China will never join such a disadvantageous alliance.
China could insist on the pre-war status quo or embrace a trilateral alliance with Moscow, but either option would hurt its strategic aims, including the one-China policy. Or it could make Pyongyang an irresistible offer.
Kim could maintain the status quo, or trade nuclear arms for the lifting of sanctions and security guarantees while maintaining totalitarian rule. His only realistic choice is to deliver a bright future by agreeing to open up the economy.
Biden must cooperate with other six-party talk members to craft a deal that speaks to the cost-benefit calculation of economic development in exchange for denuclearisation.
While Kim has a vision for his country’s future, the lack of an exit strategy from his nuclear programme has thwarted peace talks. Embracing denuclearisation in exchange for security guarantees and development aid will help the economy soar.
Given Chinese president’s personal history combined with China’s pivotal role in North Korea’s economy, Xi is well placed to convince Kim that economic reform is his best option. A US$300 billion fund, mostly financed by China, could get the ball rolling.
The US has failed to sell a denuclearisation deal to North Korea, so Russia’s president should take up the challenge, starting with setting the conditions for a modernisation fund.
The US lacks a strategy that pleases all stakeholders on the Korean peninsula, including Kim Jong-un. Sanctions and diplomatic pressure should be supplemented by the promise of an economic development fund, infrastructural support and security guarantees.