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Russia welcomes softer US N Korea approach

December 13, 2017

Moscow has called US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's comments "constructive." US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had appeared to reverse US North Korea policy.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watching the launch of a Hwasong missile
Image: Reuters/KCNA

Russia on Wednesday welcomed US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's offer to start negotiations with North Korea over its disputed nuclear and missile weapons programs "without preconditions."

"We can state that such constructive statements impress us far more than the confrontational rhetoric that we have heard up to now. Undoubtedly this can be welcomed," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Peskov said the remarks aligned with Russia's repeated calls for dialogue in the standoff. "It was Putin who regularly and consistently called for all the parties involved to do all they would to set up channels for dialogue. Therefore, such statements (as Tillerson's) of course do give us satisfaction."

Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Pyongyang was keen on entering talks with the US.

Washington Atlantic Council  Rex Tillerson
Tillerson appeared to reverse US policy toward North Korea on TuesdayImage: Getty Images/AFP/M. Ngan

Tillerson drops preconditions

Tillerson dropped preconditions on talks with Pyongyang during a speech on Tuesday in what appeared to be a reversal of US policy toward North Korea's nuclear and missile weapons programs.

"We are ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. And we are ready to have the first meeting without preconditions," Tillerson said at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.

The US' previous position was that North Korea would have to come to the negotiating table ready to give up on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Dmitri Peskow
The Russian President's spokesperson Dmitri Peskow welcomed Rex Tillerson's apparent turn-aboutImage: picture-alliance/M.Metzel

America's chief diplomat, whose recent disagreements with President Donald Trump over North Korea have cast doubt on his future in office, said the North would need to stop nuclear weapon and missile testing before the start of any negotiations.

But he said both sides could "at least sit down and see each other face to face and then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work towards."

Military exercises

Russia and China have attempted to strike a middle ground between North Korea and the US in recent months.

They have supported UN sanctions against the North, with both voting in September to pass the most far-reaching sanctions ever placed on North Korea.

But Moscow and Beijing have also criticized the Trump administration's fiery rhetoric and military exercises near the North Korean border.

Both countries support a "suspension-for-suspension" approach to the crisis. Under the proposal, Pyongyang would agree to stop tests in exchange for an end to US and South Korean military exercises.

amp/rg (Interfax, AFP)