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Press Review: North Korea 'taking aim' at Washington and Russia eyeing more cyber deals

November 30, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday

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Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile

Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile

© Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

 

Media: New North Korean missile capable of reaching Washington

Pyongyang launched a ballistic missile early on Wednesday after a two-month break in testing. According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the Hwasong-15 missile soared to an unprecedented height of almost 4,500 km, becoming the first North Korean missile able to cover the continental United States.

Senior Vice President of the PIR Center, an independent NGO, Yevgeny Buzhinsky told RBC he doubts that Pyongyang has managed to create a real ICBM, noting serious tests should be carried out to prove this. "The latest launch is not a test, but a demonstration of power," he said.

"Pyongyang is working on many fronts. One of the tasks is to create and demonstrate weapons, capable of reaching the continental US, and this has been fulfilled now," expert in non-proliferation, author and editor of the Northeast Asian Military Studies analytical portal, Vladimir Khrustalev, said.

After the missile launch, politicians around the world once again called to freeze the arms race and move towards a political settlement.

Washington’s reaction to the news from the Korean Peninsula was very tough, Kommersant writes. US President Donald Trump announced additional restrictions over Pyongyang’s steps. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed in a phone conversation to press for new international sanctions by the UN Security Council.

Russia’s former Ambassador to South Korea Gleb Ivashentsov is skeptical about the effectiveness of sanctions. "By the way, all the possible screws have been already tightened," he stressed. Pyongyang has fulfilled its missile program and tackled all its aims and "now it will probably be more willing to hold talks than before," the diplomat noted.

Konstantin Asmolov, a leading researcher at the Korean Studies Center of the Far East Institute at Russia’s Academy of Sciences, also agrees that Pyongyang’s latest launch is "an invitation for the US to have talks."

A source in the UN Secretariat told Kommersant that "many see the missile launch as a response to the US move to put North Korea on the list of terrorism sponsors." The next serious irritant for Pyongyang may be the December 4 US-South Korean military drills, he said.

 

Izvestia: Kurdish units ready to join Syrian army

The Syrian Democratic Forces, comprised mainly of Kurdish units, are prepared to become part of the government army after a political compromise is reached, a representative of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Russia, Abd Salam Ali, told Izvestia.

"If a solution acceptable to everyone is found, the Syrian Democratic Forces’ entry into the Syrian army will be a logical scenario. We have never demanded to be separated. On the contrary, the Kurds are seeking to validate their rights and the rights of other ethnic groups as part of a united Syria," he said.

A Syrian lawmaker from the ruling Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, Alan Bakr, said the Kurds are an inalienable part of society and if they are ready to meet the country’s interests, there are no obstacles for joint operations of their units with the government forces.

Grigory Kosach, Professor of the Department of History, Political Science and Law at the Russian State University for the Humanities, told the paper the Syrian Democratic Forces’ joining the Syrian army will erase any motives for the country’s breakup. Besides, this will calm Turkey, which is very sensitive to the Kurdish claims to play an independent role.

A lot will depend how the Syrian Democratic Forces will be incorporated into the Syrian army, he noted. The sides will have to work out a formula for this process, and it is most important that both Damascus and the Syrian Democratic Forces agree to take these steps, the paper says.

 

Kommersant: Russia eyeing cyber security deals with five countries

Russia’s authorities have set their sights on reaching new bilateral intergovernmental agreements to put the brakes on hacker attacks, Kommersant writes. Russia has already clinched such deals with a number of countries, including the United States, China, India and South Africa.

Moscow is now looking into reaching agreements with Germany, France, Israel, South Korea and Japan. The Russian Security Council has ordered the Foreign Ministry, the Federal Security Service and other ministries to explore the possibilities of holding bilateral consultations with these countries by July 1, 2018.

The talks should focus on "ensuring international information security, including informing each other on cyber incidents and also signing particular intergovernmental agreements." According to two Russian government sources, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued this order after the Security Council’s meeting on October 26.

Russia’s authorities hope that bilateral and multilateral regional agreements will be a step forward in adopting under the United Nations’ auspices "the rules of responsible behavior of states in cyberspace." However, this document is not expected to be endorsed swiftly, the paper writes.

Russia started developing bilateral intergovernmental agreements in cyber security four years ago, Kommersant writes. In June 2013, Russia and the United States signed breakthrough agreements on measures of trust in using information and communication technologies. During his first meeting with US President Donald Trump, Putin offered to continue the work on expanding cooperation in this area. The US leader first publicly supported the initiative but later retracted his words due to a barrage of criticism from the US Congress, the paper writes.

Russian government sources say Moscow and Washington will continue looking into the possibilities of agreeing on the new measures of trust in information security.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China seeks to participate in rebuilding post-war Syria

China wants to play a vital role in Syria’s post-war reconstruction in order to restore its economic influence in the country, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. According to Alexey Maslov, Head of the School of Asian Studies at the Higher School of Economics, China is ready to pour money into Syria to restore its economy and control over some territories. Beijing pumped billions of dollars into pre-war Syria and almost lost these funds.

"Now it wants to restore its economic influence and take advantage of the victory (won by Russia and the US against terrorists)," he noted.

According to the expert, Beijing will invest in rebuilding infrastructure, namely roads, railways and warehouses. "Syria’s reconstruction needs hundreds of billions of dollars today. This demands efforts and time, but only China today has such means to freely invest money in this country," Maslov explained.

Apparently, China has also been dodging the sensitive issue of supporting the government of Bashar Assad. However, Beijing will cooperate with any other regime if Assad resigns. What is essentially vital for China is to minimize its risks and understand who will be really in power in Syria for the next five or six years, he said.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow may put German media in ‘foreign agents’ crosshairs

Editor-in-Chief of Russia’s RT television news network Margarita Simonyan has not ruled out that European mass media outlets working in Russia, even German ones may be included in the "foreign agents" list as a response to any pressure that may be taken against the TV channel in Europe.

The German Embassy in Moscow told the paper that the government is not planning to introduce any restrictions against the foreign press or amend any laws on the work of mass media representatives. A German political source said RT is just trying to attract attention.

According to Alexey Makarkin, a leading expert at the Center for Political Technologies, Berlin will have to battle pro-Kremlin media influence and take into account public opinion, namely Russian Germans. These citizens now support far-right parties that are countering the current liberal paradigm, and now vote for the Alternative for Germany party, which calls for friendly ties with Moscow and approves of Crimea being part of Russia.

Some analysts suggest that the Alternative for Germany has entered the Bundestag thanks to the solid backing of Russian Germans. "Russian propaganda, previously considered to be a virtual threat, has turned into a real one, and it is not ruled out that the authorities will decide to respond to it," the expert said.

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review

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