Russia urges “security guarantees” for North Korea

This combination of images made on Tuesday from propaganda video released by North Korea state-run media shows a simulation of a B-1B bomber being hit by a missile. (DPRK Today via AP)

MOSCOW: Russia on Tuesday reiterated its call for North Korea to be given “security guarantees” as part of a solution to the Korean crisis, in remarks that come as a senior North Korean diplomat is due in Moscow for talks.

“North Korea has apparently come to a conclusion that the most certain means of ensuring security for it is to possess nuclear weapons and these missiles,” Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, was quoted as saying by state-run Tass news agency.

“They really fear an attack from certain countries. In this situation, there is the need to look for some security guarantees that will suit Pyongyang. This may be done only by political and diplomatic means,” he said.

His remarks came a day after North Korea’s official media reported that Choe Son Hui, director general of the North American Department of his country’s Foreign Ministry, left Pyongyang for Moscow.

The Korean Central News Agency said she will hold talks with Oleg Burmistrov, a “roving ambassador” of the Russian Foreign Ministry, who visited North Korea in July.

Mr Ulyanov suggested that North Korea’s leadership is concerned at what might happen if it were to lose the leverage and deterrence that comes with possessing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

The diplomat cited the cases of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who gave up his nuclear ambitions only to be toppled and killed in 2011, and of Iran, which suspended its nuclear program under a 2015 landmark agreement with world powers, only for the White House’s current occupant to threaten to trash the deal with possibly far-reaching consequences.

If the United States withdraws from the Iran deal, it will be “a very bad example for North,” he said. “It will show Pyongyang that the attempts to make agreements may be disrupted by key participants of deals without any pretext.”

On Sept 1, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a gathering in Moscow that “any country, including North Korea, has a right to security guarantees.”

In that respect, he noted that “many regime change threats and promises to reunite the two Korean states forcefully” have been made in the past.

At the same time, Mr Lavrov praised US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s four-point statement that the United States does not seek a regime change in Pyongyang, the collapse of the Kim Jong Un’s regime, an accelerated reunification of Korean Peninsula, or an excuse to send the US military north of the 38th parallel that divides North and South Korea.

He suggested that a “practical solution” would include both security guarantees and “North Korea’s firm pledge to stop (nuclear) tests and missile launches.”

Russia and China, neither of which has been enthusiastic about tightening sanctions on North Korea, have also been jointly advocating a “suspension for suspension” proposal under which it would suspend its nuclear and ballistic missile activities and the United States and South Korea would suspend their large-scale military drills.

The proposal is intended to get all parties back to the negotiation table as a “first step” toward the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and building a peace mechanism there.

But the United States has rejected it on grounds that long-standing military exercises are necessary to ensure US readiness to defend South Korea and to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Tass quoted Mr Ulyanov as saying, “These manoeuvres, why are they held near North Korea’s coast? Are they meant to tease Pyongyang and provoke it to take any awkward steps?…Do South Korea and Japan enhance their security due to these manoeuvres?”

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