Russia backs North’s security

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Russia backs North’s security

Moscow stepped up its call for security guarantees for Pyongyang during talks between the top U.S. and Russian envoys on Tuesday, while Washington maintained there will be no sanctions relief until North Korea’s full denuclearization.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Sochi, Russia, and discussed North Korea’s denuclearization, alongside other issues, amid an impasse in negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington.

“Naturally, we highlighted that the leadership of [North Korea] expects certain guarantees of security of their country reciprocated by denuclearization, and that denuclearization should be expanded over the whole of the Korean Peninsula,” Lavrov said in a joint press conference after their talks.

Yet Pompeo said he “underscored that we must maintain full implementation of the UN [United Nations] sanctions until the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea is achieved.”

Pompeo added, “Our two teams have been working very closely together on this in a very productive fashion.”

Moscow has been supportive of a more phased approach to denuclearization, backing partial easing of sanctions, which differs from Washington’s stance that there should be no relief on pressure until the North’s complete denuclearization. The United States has especially expressed concern that China or Russia may become lax on their sanctions implementation amid its pressure campaign on the North.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin held their first summit at the end of last month in Vladivostok, Russia. Putin said afterward that Kim had asked him to “inform the U.S. side about his position” and underscored that North Korea needs “guarantees of its security and sovereignty.”

Russia appears to be looking to play a more active role in the denuclearization issue as the United States and China - North Korea’s other traditional supporter - are engaged in a trade war.

Lavrov said that Putin briefed U.S. President Donald Trump on the results of his April 25 summit with Kim in their phone conversation on May 3.

Russia is “promoting dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang,” said Lavrov, and “prepared to support” such talks.

Pompeo also met with President Putin in Sochi, and told reporters after the meeting, “We spent a fair amount of time thinking about North Korea, how we might unlock the denuclearization. I think we share the same objective, and I hope we can find ways that we can work together on that.”

The secretary of state added that Putin “understands that the U.S. is going to be in the lead,” but added there are “places we can work together.”

According to the Kremlin, Putin told Pompeo that their two countries have common interests, such as the “preservation of strategic stability, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the settlement of regional crises.”

In a press conference on April 25 after the summit, Putin suggested that bilateral agreements with the United States may not be “enough” to guarantee security for North Korea.

He said that in the process of negotiating security guarantees for the North, eventually “international guarantees will have to come into the picture,” pushing the six-party talks format.

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