Ahead of President Donald Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told state media that the U.S. was “asking our advice, our views on this or that scenario.”
Quartz noted that one of Russia’s interests in the region involves a decrease in U.S. military presence in South Korea, and as it turns out, the Trump administration announced on Sunday an end to large-scale joint military exercises on the peninsula.
Trump said last year that he wanted to end the “war games” with South Korea — an idea reportedly suggested to him by Russian President Vladimir Putin — citing the cost of the exercises.
According to NBC News, Defense Department officials have now said “the exercises are being curtailed as part of the Trump administration's effort to ease tensions with North Korea, which has always viewed the joint drills as an invasion rehearsal.”
The joint military drills will be replaced with smaller joint exercises, according to an agreement between South Korea's National Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong Doo and the acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.
North Korea’s Kim family has historic ties to Moscow, as the former Soviet Union “helped to establish the Kim family dictatorship in the 1950s that still rules North Korea and supported Pyongyang’s building out the nuclear capability that grew into its current missile program,” Quartz noted.
The two countries also have shared trade interests and signed a mutual-defense pact in 1961.
For now, Russian appears more interested in achieving peace in the region in order to reap financial reward, but Moscow is in a position to do a fair amount of damage to U.S. influence in East Asia should it so choose.
How? “[B]y further befriending Pyongyang, selling it weapons and making economic investments,” according to Harry J. Kazianis, director of Korea studies at the Center for the National Interest.