Pyongyang is seeking direct talks with Washington, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday following a meeting with his U.S. counterpart.
Russia’s top diplomat and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held discussions on the situation on the Korean peninsula at a meeting held on the sidelines of a summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“We know that North Korea wants, first of all, to speak with the United States about its security guarantees,” Lavrov said in a statement carried by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). “We are ready to support it. We are ready to help promote such talks.”
“Our American colleague, U.S. Secretary of State R. Tillerson, has heard this,” Lavrov said.
The Russian foreign minister told his U.S. counterpart that Moscow’s position on the issue of the Korean peninsula was “unchanged.”
“We are confident that the vicious spiral of confrontation and provocations must be stopped,” he said.
Lavrov also expressed his opposition to ongoing joint military drills by Washington and Seoul, urging the U.S. to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through diplomatic channels.
“Lavrov once again stressed that the escalation of tension, which is resulting from the U.S. military maneuvers conducting on the Korean peninsula and aggressive rhetoric, is unacceptable,” MOFA said in a separate statement on the talks between Lavrov and Tillerson.
In response to Lavrov’s comments, the U.S. Department of State on Thursday reiterated Washington’s position that resuming talks with Pyongyang can only take place when Pyongyang is “willing to denuclearize,” spokesperson Heather Nauert told media during a press briefing.
But other high-level officials from the U.S. State Department have in recent months suggested the possibility of resuming dialogue with the North.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan said in October that Washington did not “rule out the possibility of course of direct talks,” and Tillerson has also reaffirmed that U.S. diplomatic efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue would continue, saying in September that Washington has “lines of communications to Pyongyang.”
President Donald Trump, however, has said that dialogue with North Korea is not worthwhile and that Tillerson was “wasting his time.”
Pyongyang’s reported overture comes days after Russian deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov said that the North has “showed interest” in a freeze-for-freeze deal with the U.S. and South Korea, which would see the DPRK suspend nuclear and missile activities in exchange for an agreement by the U.S. and South Korea to pause joint military drills.
The U.S. and South Korea have consistently rejected the proposal, and in October North Korean state media carried an editorial criticizing the “suspension for suspension” initiative proposed by Beijing as “irresponsible behavior.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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