Thursday, September 26, 2019

North Korean Poaching Incident Highlights Moscow’s Loss of Control in Far East, Kyiv Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 22 – The North Korean poaching incident in Russia’s economic exclusion zone in the Pacific shows that Moscow lacks the resources, will, and plans to hold on to the Russian Far East for more than a few more years and will be forced to cede more control and possibly territory to others in the near future, Ukrainian commentator Sergey Ilchenko says.

            In a commentary for Kyiv’s Delovaya stolitsa, Ilchenko argues that the decline in Russian power in the Far East has allowed poaching to emerge and shows that “the driving out of Russia and Russians from the economic zones in the Pacific Ocean has already taken place” (

            Legally, he acknowledges, “the situation can remain undefined for a long time yet, but this doesn’t change anything – and there are precedents” for that conclusion. Moscow de facto lost Damansky Island to China in 1969 but officially handed it over only in 1991,” boosting China’s authority exactly as the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

            “Having won a victory in the struggle for disputed territories,” Ilchenko continues, “China then showed its ability to oppose Moscow and by this won the success that followed, laying the basis for a flood of Western investments because in all the world, peple take from the weak and dying and invest in the strong and growing.”

            North Korean poaching and Moscow’s inability to stop it and China’s increasingly dominant position on land and sea in the region, he says, highlight Russia’s declining fortunes, suggesting that its de facto loss of control now over these key areas will be followed by de jure loss of this economic exclusion zone and even territory in the future. 

            Ilchenko’s words may seem to some hyperbolic. But there is an important reason to take them seriously: poaching like piracy is a crime that arises when forces capable to suppressing it recede or disappear. That is what has happened in the Russian exclusion zone in the Pacific, and both North Korea and China know it. 

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