Russian ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora on Wednesday denied a recent report that his country was prepared to build a nuclear power plant in DPRK as part of the denuclearization process.
In an interview with Russia’s state-owned outlet TASS, Matsegora said he was fully briefed on the bilateral relations and that reports, initially carried by the Washington Post, were false.
“I declare with all responsibility: Russia or, as it is claimed, representatives of the Russian authorities, did not come out with a proposal to build a nuclear power plant in the DPRK,” the ambassador said.
Tuesday’s report claimed, citing U.S. intelligence sources, that “in exchange for North Korea dismantling its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, Moscow offered the country a nuclear power plant.”
“To anyone who knows anything about this issue, it is absolutely clear the initial stupidity of such an assumption,” Matsegora said in response, describing such a plan as overly expensive and that other, more pressing, infrastructural upgrades would be more worthy of attention.
The “several billion dollars” needed for such a plant would be better spent on the “complete modernization of the energy infrastructure of the DPRK, including its electrical networks,” he added, without which a nuclear power plant would be “no less dangerous than the republic’s entire current nuclear potential.”
“Who is ready to make such a gift?” he asked, suggesting the North Koreans do not have the money to pay for it.
The Russian ambassador then appeared to balk at the suggestion that Russia would be willing to pay for it, pointing to the U.S.-DPRK 1994 Agreed Framework and seeming to ask if the U.S. may once again offer “the exchange of light-water nuclear reactors for North Korean denuclearization?”
Anthony Rinna, an analyst on Russian foreign policy in East Asia for the Sino-NK research group, told NK News that Moscow’s experience in offering such help dates back even further, however.
“In 1984 the Soviet government offered to help North Korea with its nuclear program provided they use it for peaceful purposes only,” he said. “Russia is likely aware that it doesn’t have the influence to participate in something so sensitive.”
Matsegora also attacked the Washington Post’s editorial board in his Wednesday interview, claiming the report is part of “the anti-Russian campaign inflated in the Western media.”
“If the source of these reports is really the U.S. intelligence services, who, I am sure, know the truth, then we are dealing with deliberate misinformation,” he said.
“This is very dangerous when intelligence agencies start playing such games,” Matsegora added, lamenting the potential for U.S. leadership to make decisions in ongoing negotiations with the DPRK and others based on the report that could change “the vector of development of the international situation as a whole.”
Meanwhile, representatives of the foreign ministries of North Korea and Russia met in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing negotiations over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, according to a press release from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
Without releasing the names of the North Korean participants, the report said Russia’s vice-foreign minister Igor Morgulov met to discuss “the current situation on the Korean peninsula” and “prospects for a North Korean settlement.”
It also said the two sides discussed “issues of bilateral cooperation, including cooperation at the UN,” without providing further details.
The talks follow a meeting in Washington last Friday between Morgulov and U.S. State Department Special Representative on North Korea Stephen Biegun.
“The recent developments around the Korean Peninsula and the efforts of all the states involved to resolve the problems of the subregion were discussed in detail,” according to the Russian MFA.
“In the interests of consolidating the political and diplomatic process, it was agreed to continue building up the Russian-American dialogue in the Korean direction both in bilateral and multilateral formats.”
Analyst Rinna told NK News he believes the talks should be viewed in the context of several ongoing series of bilateral meetings, including between Biegun and his North Korean counterparts in Washington and Sweden this month, as well as meetings between Russia and South Korea and separately with Swedish negotiators in December.
But, citing a situation that likely sees Kim Jong Un delaying a summit in Russia with President Vladimir Putin until after the upcoming second U.S.-DPRK summit, Rinna said “the Kremlin seems to be keeping things at the (vice-)ministerial level, remaining active in diplomacy but not trying to punch above its weight.”
“Morgulov has been the senior official most active in Russia’s DPRK-related diplomacy lately,” he added. “Thus, Russia wants to remain active, but understands that its position in terms of the security crisis is not that strong, and thus doesn’t warrant anything higher than activity at the rank of vice-minister for now.”
Aside from the diplomatic arena, a North Korean delegation is holding meetings this week in Vladivostok over economic ties and the upcoming 9th Meeting of the DPRK-Russian Intergovernmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade, Economics, Science and Technology.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Russian embassy DPRK
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