Basically, the Russian government warned North Korea that it will create legal grounds for an international forceful intervention when they become a legitimate nuclear threat, so my question is, what is the procedure for such an intervention?

In such an event, which countries have the legal right to attack North Korea and which ones don't and would they occupy the region with a forceful regime change?

Eventually, would there be a battle for glory as to which country has the "honor" of "liberating" North Korea from its regime?

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/08/russia-warns-north-korea-nuclear-strike

  • 4
    "Legal right"? International politics don't work that way.
    – Philipp
    Mar 15, 2016 at 18:59
  • 1
    @Philipp: That is a legalistic view. Sociologists that look at the behavior of state actors will observe that such behavior is in line with the hypothesis that international legal rights do exist, in particular when some of those actors are developed countries..
    – MSalters
    Aug 28, 2017 at 12:02

2 Answers 2


Short answer to explain just the term used: Russia is telling NK that publicly stating "We are going to nuke USA and South Korea" gives USA and South Korea a legal basis to launch a preemptive strike, to avoid being attacked themselves (so, they would be acting in self-defense).

If North Korea had no nuclear weapons or means of delivery, then just the leader of NK threatening the USA or SK would not be enough to justify war, since the threat needs to be credible. But NK has an habit to show-off how developed its nuclear and missile industries are as a way to get -what they believe to be- some leverage, and each time they do so the threat becomes more credible and the USA has more justification for a preemptive strike.

And of course, the implication is that if the USA attacks legally NK, then Russia will not try to defend NK -either diplomatically or militarily- because the war would be NK leadership's fault, and so maybe NK leadership will think twice the next time because it choses to "heat up things a little" in order to get some concession.

As for the other questions, in case there is a preemptive war, any threatened country can launch the preemptive attack1 (I am not sure if an allied nation could, unless asked by the threatened party). And an operation of such character would not be launched unilaterally, it would require an agreement between at least SK (providing the launching point and many troops) and USA (providing air and naval superiority). So it will be no "it's my turn" arguments.

1Technically the preemptive attack would not need to end with the occupation of the country; war is justified until it is clear that the threat that started it has been removed (vg nuclear weapons surrendered and facilities dismantled). That said, if it comes to this, it is clear that it will end with the ousting of NK regime.

  • In nowadays world, in fact, only nukes are guarantee of non-invading. Do you remember US-NK summit before NK have enough nukes and missiles? I do not. Only threats, agressive claims, and military exercises from the US. For now - silence, talks and summits. Oct 10, 2019 at 14:00

Usually, pre-emptive strikes require significant political support, based on both solid evidences of an emerging threat and consensus among the vast majority of states involved.

what is the procedure for such an intervention?
which countries have the legal right to attack North Korea […]?

The most legitimate way is probably establishing an international coalition under the auspices of the UN. This requires adoption of a resolution by the UNSC (UN Security Council).

It is well-known that Russia is systematically (ab-)using its veto power to block the UNSC resolutions about Korea. During the history of UN, the Russia has vetoed five UNSC resolutions about the "North Korea".

One of the most vivid story what happens if the Russians are not using its veto power to cover up the "North Korean" aggression, is maybe January 1950, when the "Soviet" Russia's representatives boycotted UN meetings. In the absence of them, the UNSC was able to vote for the intervention of a UN-mandated force to defend Korea "to repel the armed attack" from the North.

According to "Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union" (TASS), even today the Russia still considers its right to veto a ‘cornerstone’ of UN Security Council’s architecture.

At the moment, the Russia has three military fronts (two in Ukraine and one in Syria) and several frozen conflicts (Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia, Moldova, and Azerbaijan/Armenia). The Russian armed forces are spread between these fronts, so they desperately need some political resources to keep control over all these conflicts.
It seems to be hard to accomplish that if yet another armed conflict arises.

So in my understanding, Moscow simply informs Pyongyang that it can no longer use its veto power, nor can it provide with military help in case if the rest of the world decides to arrange a military intervention to the "North Korea".
Logically, this declaration can also serve as a signal to other UNSC members that Russia is not willing to block adopting further resolutions about this topic.

This becomes even more obvious, since recently (2/Mar/2016) the Russia has not blocked UNSC adoption of a new resolution encompassing sanctions against North Korea, "the strongest U.N. sanctions in 20 years."

would there be a battle for glory […] of "liberating" North Korea from its regime?

It's a bit philosophic question. There is no such term as "battle for glory" in politics. Even more, liberating of a nation from its regime is not an internationally accepted action. In general, even the most blood-hungry regimes are being tolerated, unless they attack other states. For example, the "Soviet" Russia was tolerated regardless of huge population losses. To compare, the total losses of native Ukrainians during only 1921-1945 are estimated to be 30-40 million (1). Nevertheless, no states were keen to "liberate Ukrainians from the Russian regime".

What the coalition can do is defend other states from the emerging threat of "North Korean" attacks by destroying any weapons that can "reduce" someone else "to seas in flames and ashes in a moment".

(1) As per comment below, Ukraine underwent 6.8 million population loss during WWII. Obviously, Russia was not solely responsible for this entire number.

  • 7
    Wow, we all know you are not precisely pro-Russian, but are you seriously mixing up the deaths of the Ukrainian famine with those of the WWII as if they were all killed by Russia? Did you forget about that little thing called Nazi Germany?
    – SJuan76
    Mar 15, 2016 at 17:23
  • 1
    The question was not about that but for the meaning of The Guardian article; and my point was not that Stalin's SU was not a murderous regime but that mixing all the estimated Ukrainians deaths in the 1921-1945 period and attributing all of them to the SU is missleading at best. While you were at it, you could have also added the victims of Spanish Influenza and the Plague and attribute those to the SU, too.
    – SJuan76
    Mar 15, 2016 at 17:47
  • 1
    @SJuan76, I don't really understand why you're debating here. One may argue about who is responsible for 6.8 million losses during 1941-1945. Wouldn't the remaining tens of millions of deaths count? How many deaths is are needed to call a regime murderous enough? A billion? Two, three? Mar 15, 2016 at 19:03
  • 4
    Again, I am not defending Stalin's regime (please read previous comment). I am criticizing you posting missleading data (I will be generous and think that you honestly forgot about WWII) just because it suits your agenda. Had you stated a realistic death estimates for the 1921 - 1940 period I would not have commented on it -even if it would still be arguably off-topic to the OP question-, but mixing in WWII casualties is too much historic manipulation to let it pass without commenting.
    – SJuan76
    Mar 15, 2016 at 23:17
  • 1
    @bytebuster What's the significance of "The Russia" and such? I'm mainly just curious: is there a significance to that?
    – divibisan
    Oct 10, 2019 at 23:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .