North Korea is faced with tremendous limitations. All of its Internet connections go through servers in China, for example. But it soon may find other ways to connect to the outside world. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this year in a bid to, among other things, begin running networks through Russia, too.
This caught my attention. Years ago I bought a giant map of Asia for my office at Mandiant. I was fascinated by the small part of the world where Russia and North Korea share a border, shown below.
China, Russia, and North Korea share a common border near the Russian town of Khasan. From that location, Russia and North Korea share a border dividing the Tumen River, approximately 19 km southeast to the Sea of Japan.
There is a bridge across the Tumen River near Khasan, shown in the next image.
The blog "English Russia" published a December 2014 post titled This Is Where Russia Borders with China and North Korea. It features some amazing aerial photography of the area. The blog notes the bridge over the Tumen river is called "The Railway Bridge of Friendship."
Returning to the origin for this post, namely North Korea "running networks through Russia," it's possible this is the place where it could happen. What sort of connectivity is nearby?
A search for information on the geography of the Russian Internet noted a "Transit Europe – Asia" line with connectivity to places like Stockholm and Frankfurt, from the Russia city of Khabarovsk. The city of Khabarovsk is also mentioned for a "Khabarovsk – Nakhodka – Tokyo" line. Where are Khabarovsk and Nakhodka? The next image shows the answer.
As you can see, Nakhodka (B) is about 100 miles northeast of Khasan (A). Khabarovsk (C), the terminus for the major lines to Europe mentioned earlier, is several hundred miles to the northeast, along the border with China.
Given the investment in connectivity to Nakhodka, I suggest that, if the Russians are serious about providing physical Internet connectivity to the North Koreas, we should see activity between Nakhodka and Khasan. I am not sure if the Russians would want to lay cable along the A188/A189 highway between the two cities, or if they would install a submerged cable. Given that Vladivostok, home of the Russian Pacific Fleet, lies between the two cities, I don't think the Russians would want to deploy an undersea cable there. It might be a risky location for such a high-traffic waterway.
If anyone has satellite or stealthy drone to spare, you may want to watch for cable installation along the A188/A189 highways between Nakhodka and Khasan, and along the "The Railway Bridge of Friendship" to North Korea.
Thank you to Google Maps and English Russia blog for these images.