Russian military delegation in North Korea
A Russian Defense Ministry delegation has arrived in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
The development was reported Wednesday by Russia’s Interfax news agency, citing sources in North Korea’s Embassy in Moscow without elaborating on details about the visit.
The visit followed the Tuesday announcement by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of America’s willingness to enter direct talks with Pyongyang without pre-conditions.
In offering direct talks, Tillerson backed away from a major Washington demand that North Korea give up its nuclear arsenal before any negotiations.
“Let’s just meet,” Tillerson said during an address before an audience at Washington’s Atlantic Council think tank.
The new diplomatic overture by the top US diplomat came almost two weeks after North Korea announced its successful test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that put the entire US mainland within range.
Earlier, the United Nations Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman wrapped up a five-day tour of North Korea on Saturday. He held talks with senior officials in a bid to soothe persisting tensions over Pyongyang’s weapons program.
During Feltman’s visit, North Korea blamed US “nuclear blackmail” for the surging tensions over its military program but agreed to remain in regular contact with the world body.
“At these meetings, our side said the US policy of hostility toward the DPRK (North Korea) and its nuclear blackmail are to blame for the current tense situation on the Korean Peninsula,” read a report by the North’s stated news agency, KCNA.
Later, Feltman said North Korean officials had told him it was important to prevent war.
Russia: Joint drills involving US stir tensions
Meanwhile, Russia’s military chief warned on Monday that the continuing war games in the region by Japan, the US, and South Korea — aimed at countering North Korea — only raised hysteria and generated more instability in the region.
Russian Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces General Valery Gerasimov issued the warning in Tokyo as the US, Japan, and South Korea began a two-day military exercise to practice tracking missiles.
“Carrying out military training in regions surrounding North Korea will only heighten hysteria and make the situation unstable,” Gerasimov said at the beginning of a meeting with Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera.
China has also urged the US, Japan, and South Korea to suspend joint military drills in the region in return for North Korea to halt its nuclear activities — an idea rejected by Washington.
Beijing has pressed for talks to peacefully resolve the crisis.