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Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters he has accepted an invitation to visit Pyongyang following a meeting with North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho on Tuesday.
The two met for planned talks in Moscow and discussed a range of bilateral issues, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) reported, as well as plans for events to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“We are very pleased with the talks. Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho of the DPRK invited me to visit Pyongyang on a return visit. We accepted this invitation,” Lavrov said, while adding that there are currently no plans for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un.
“Today we did not discuss these issues,” he added. “Both leaders regularly exchange messages. I am convinced that when they find it optimal and expedient, they will discuss the possibility of personal contact.”
Talks between the two foreign ministers also reportedly covered DPRK-Russian economic relations in light of current UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions, humanitarian cooperation, and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
“The situation around the nuclear problem of the Korean peninsula was examined in sufficient detail,” Lavrov said.
“On the Russian side, we confirmed that we welcome the gradual normalization of the situation, the cessation of mutual threats, the readiness for contacts both between North Korea and South Korea, and between North Korea and the United States.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s concerted campaign of diplomatic outreach this year has so far resulted in his first state visit as DPRK leader to Beijing, as well as the provisional organization of two major summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Talks in the Chinese capital late last month also saw Chinese President accept an invitation to visit Pyongyang.
Lavrov also on Tuesday spoke in favor of resuming the six-party talk format for negotiations on the denuclearization of the peninsula, which would involve negotiations between Japan, Russia, China, the U.S., South Korea and the DPRK.
He also said that rumors to replace the previously abandoned six-party talks with four-party talks were false and that Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi in Moscow on April 5 had confirmed “quartet” talks were not being considered.
Following a question from the press, Lavrov also said that any security guarantees given to the North Koreans by the U.S. to facilitate denuclearization would have to be “reinforced” in light of Trump’s threats to unilaterally withdraw from a nuclear deal struck with Iran, though the topic was apparently not discussed in the meeting with Ri.
Ri arrived in Russia on Monday following visits to China, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan.
While in Azerbaijan, he met with foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and expressed an interest in bilateral cooperation in the energy sector.
In Turkmenistan, Ri also met with his counterpart Rashid Meredov with both expressing “the need for their further intensification” of bilateral relations.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Russian MFA