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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia confirms private visit of senior North Korean official

RIA Novosti

08/11/2006 15:31 MOSCOW, November 8 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Foreign Ministry confirmed Wednesday that North Korea's first deputy foreign minister is currently in Moscow on a private visit.

"Kang Sok Ju's visit is of a private nature," a ministry spokesman told RIA Novosti.

The visit, originally not confirmed by either North Korea's Moscow Embassy or the Russian Foreign Ministry, immediately raised speculations about contacts between Moscow and Pyongyang aimed at the earliest possible resumption of the stalled six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that Moscow expects talks to resume before the end of the year. He added that the heads of the six-nation delegations will hold their first meeting in mid-November to coordinate the resumption of negotiations.

South Korean media said Kang Sok Ju visited Beijing on Tuesday and left for Moscow following talks with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials. Chinese and U.S. diplomats reportedly met Wednesday in Beijing, a move believed to be an effort to help restart the talks.

The six-nation talks, involving North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States, were launched in 2003 to persuade North Korea to give up its controversial nuclear program after Pyongyang withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The talks stalled last November over Pyongyang's demand that the U.S. lift sanctions imposed on it for its alleged involvement in counterfeiting and other illegal activities.

North Korea announced it conducted its first nuclear test October 9, and threatened to take "physical measures" after the UN Security Council unanimously voted October 14 to pass a resolution imposing sanctions on the reclusive Communist state.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il told Chinese envoy Tang Jiaxuan during talks October 18-19 in Pyongyang that the country has no plans to conduct another nuclear test, but warned that "the country might take further action if pressure on North Korea continues."

"The situation should never lead to a deadlock," President Vladimir Putin said October 25. "None of the negotiating parties should be driven into a corner, with no way out except by escalating tensions."

Putin said that diplomacy should be the only way for the international community to dissuade North Korea from further nuclear tests.

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