June 01, 2018 11:31
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Pyongyang on Thursday.
Lavrov gave his backing to the phased denuclearization that North Korea and China propose as well as an end to U.S.-led sanctions against the North. The last time a Russian foreign minister visited North Korea was in 2009. Lavrov also invited Kim to visit Moscow.
After meeting with his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho, Lavrov said, "Touching on sanctions, this is absolutely clear that starting this discussion about solving the Korean Peninsula's nuclear problem, we believe that it cannot be full until sanctions are removed," according to Russia's TASS news service.
"It is impossible in one move to ensure denuclearization, that's why certainly there should be some stages and there should be the oncoming traffic at each of these stages," Lavrov added.
The U.S. insists on complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization before sanctions are lifted.
"Our president and we have very positively assessed the Panmunjom Declaration, which you and the President of [South Korea] signed," Lavrov told Kim. "We are ready to contribute to its implementation in every possible way, given that it mentions railway projects which should be implemented with Russia's participation in the long term."
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it welcomes Russia's role in the denuclearization process.
China and Russia are warming up to the North ahead of a U.S.-North Korea summit slated for June 12. There have been a flurry of meetings between North Korean, Russian and Chinese officials in recent days, raising fears of a new stalemate in the denuclearization process as the North gains confidence.
Russia and China are both keen to reduce American power in Northeast Asia, and both worry that if the U.S. and North Korea agree a deal they will lose influence on the Korean Peninsula.
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