South Korean Leader Urges 'Constructive Role' From Putin On Tensions With North
RFE/RL May 13, 2017
South Korea's newly elected President Moon Jae-in has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to play a "constructive role" in resolving tensions with North Korea's over its threats to use nuclear weapons.
Moon's office said on May 12 that the South Korean leader told Putin in a 20-minute phone call that finding a solution to curb North Korea's nuclear threat would help boost cooperation between Seoul and Moscow.
"We hope for Russia to play a constructive role in order for North Korea to stop with its nuclear provocations and go the way of denuclearization," Moon told Putin, according to the South Korean president's office.
The South Korean statement also quoted Moon as saying that Russia was prepared to play a "productive" part in easing tensions.
A brief Kremlin statement said that Putin stressed "the importance of seeking paths to a political and diplomatic solution to the crisis."
Moon said he would like to revive the six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing North Korea, which include the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and the two Koreas. The talks collapsed in 2008 after North Korea launched a rocket.
Tension has been high for months on the Korean peninsula over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests, which it conducts regularly in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
Moon's office said he also told Putin he hopes the two countries will be able to cooperate in developing East Asia, including extending a natural gas pipeline from Siberia to South Korea.
Putin said he was ready to help in all of the matters they discussed, and the two leaders invited each other for state visits, the Kremlin and Seoul said.
Moon said he would send a special envoy to Russia soon. The two leaders plan to meet at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Germany in July.
Earlier on May 12, Moon spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and asked them for help in curbing North Korea's nuclear program as well. Both agreed to do so, Moon's office said.
Moon told Chinese President Xi Jinping on May 11 that resolution of the North Korea issue "must be comprehensive and sequential, with pressure and sanctions used in parallel with negotiations."
Moon's conciliatory approach appears to conflict with that of the White House, which is trying to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons through stiff international sanctions and pressure.
While the United States is South Korea's biggest ally, the U.S. State Department said that Washington is open to talks with North Korea only if Pyongyang "ceases all its illegal activities and aggressive behavior in the region" -- a much higher threshold than Seoul is now setting.
U.S. President Donald Trump told NBC News on May 11 that Moon is "more open to discussion. I don't mind discussion, but it's under certain circumstances."
With reporting by Reuters, Yonhap, TASS, and Interfax
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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