North Korea

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to visit North Korea on Thursday to discuss nuclear stand-off and bilateral ties

He was invited by North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-ho, and his visit comes amid preparations for a high-stakes summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 6:14am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 9:52pm

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit North Korea on Thursday at the invitation of counterpart Ri Yong-ho, according to the reclusive nation’s state news agency.

“Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s official visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will take place on May 31,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

It said Lavrov and the North’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri will discuss the reclusive state’s nuclear programme, bilateral cooperation and other key international problems during the meeting.

Lavrov later confirmed the meeting, saying it would help him understand North Korea’s position on the nuclear settlement.

“It will be very useful for me to understand how our North Korean neighbours relate to all issues [concerning the situation on the Korean peninsula],” Lavrov was quoted as saying by TASS.

It’s the second time in as many months that the pair will meet, after Ri flew to Moscow in May for talks with the Russian foreign minister. Lavrov at the time floated the possibility of a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sometime in the future.

We really hope these talks … do not end up in ultimatums
Sergei Lavrov on Trump-Kim summit

Lavrov’s trip on Thursday comes amid preparations for a high-stakes summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim set for June 12. Washington wants North Korea to quickly give up all its nuclear weapons in return for sanctions and economic relief.

Pyongyang has a different view of denuclearisation and remains deeply worried that abandoning its deterrent would leave it vulnerable, especially while the US maintains a military presence in South Korea.

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Lavrov said he hoped the meeting between Kim and Trump would not degenerate into a trading of accusations.

“We support the changes happening now in relations between the two Koreas, between Pyongyang and Washington,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by RIA news agency.

“We really hope these talks … do not end up in ultimatums.”

News of Lavrov’s visit came after Putin called for restraint to keep Kim at the negotiating table for the Trump meeting. Russia is a traditional ally of North Korea, along with China.

Putin said on Friday that finding a solution to the North Korea nuclear tensions is of great importance to Russia and North Korea’s sovereignty should be guaranteed.

“A full denuclearisation of North Korea” should involve giving “North Korea a guarantee of their sovereignty and inviolability”, Putin said.

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“If you don’t behave aggressively and if you don’t corner North Korea, the result that we need will be achieved faster than many would think, and at less cost.”

Russia’s diplomatic efforts will also follow South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s meeting with Kim on Saturday to discuss the North Korean leader’s possible upcoming summit with Trump, the South said, the second inter-Korean summit in as many months.

The meeting with Trump looked uncertain last week, after a turbulent few days of diplomatic brinkmanship that culminated in a letter by Trump to Kim, saying he would abandon the summit because of Pyongyang’s “open hostilities” towards US Vice President Mike Pence.

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Trump then said on Friday that his administration is in contact with North Korea and that a June 12 summit meeting with Kim Jong-un, might still take place.

More recently, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday the White House was prepared for the summit to take place on June 12 as originally planned.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Reuters