The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Russia was ready to mediate between North Korea and the United States in an effort to reduce tensions after recent Pyongyang missile tests and months of an escalating war of words between the countries' leaders.
"Russia is ready if both sides need it and want it," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, as quoted by Russian news agency TASS. "It is impossible to become a mediator between two parties only if one side seeks so, the will of two sides is needed here."
Peskov added that Russia's willingness to help de-escalate the situation was "obvious."
Read more: North Korea terror blacklisting: The end of diplomacy?
Moscow has long urged for the two parties to start a negotiation process about North Korea's decision to continue its nuclear program and carry out missile tests despite UN Security Council resolutions.
US diplomats have said they are pursuing a diplomatic solution with North Korea, but US President Donald Trump has made any talks contingent upon Pyongyang giving up its nuclear weapons.
Read more: Korea 2017: 'Rocketman' Kim vs. 'mentally deranged' Trump
Lavrov: Washington rhetoric 'unacceptable'
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also discussed North Korea during a phone call with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, according to a statement from Russia's foreign ministry.
"It was underlined that it is necessary to move from the language of sanctions to the negotiating process as soon as possible," the statement said. It added that Tillerson initiated the call. The US State Department has yet to comment on their reported conversation.
Lavrov reportedly urged that it was "unacceptable" that "Washington's aggressive rhetoric" and its increased military presence have heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Trump has lobbed a myriad of insults at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in recent months and has threatened to "totally destroy" the country if it attacks the US. Pyongyang has said the world must now accept that it is a nuclear power.
Read more: Opinion: Asia needs the US, not Donald Trump
New US sanctions
Washington imposed sanctions on two North Korean officials allegedly involved in Pyongyang's ballistic missile program as well on Tuesday.
Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol were identified by the US Treasury as the officials targeted by the sanctions.
Ri Pyong Chol is reportedly a key official in Pyongyang's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) development program, while Kim Jong Sik is reportedly involved in the ballistic missile development, including efforts to switch from liquid to solid fuel.
Missiles powered by solid fuel can be fired on shorter notice since they do not have to be fueled before launch.
Both men were already listed in the latest round of UN Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang that were unanimously passed on Friday. North Korea called the UN sanctions an "act of war."
rs/jm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)