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Russia Offers to Mediate Between US and North Korea

Russia and China had been long proposing a ‘double freeze’ policy to de-escalate the crisis in the Korean peninsula, which threatens to turn into full-scale nuclear war.
US & North Korea

Image Courtesy: TASS

As the United Nations imposed new sanctions on North Korea, Russia has offered to mediate between North Korea and the United States, if both countries agree. "You can't become a mediator between two countries just on your own will. It is impossible, you need both sides to be willing," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. On Friday, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted new sanctions on North Korea in response to its November 29 ballistic missile test.

The Pyongyang had claimed that the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-15 could target the whole of US mainland.

Russia and China had long been proposing a ‘double freeze’ policy to de-escalate the crisis in the Korean peninsula, which threatens to turn into full-scale nuclear war. The double freeze policy, also known as double suspension, involves freezing missile launches in North Korea and South Korea’s drills with the US.

Recently, Germany supported this policy as a model to ‘promote peaceful settlement’ of the issue. Germany “understands and endorses the ‘double freeze’ initiative, and is willing to continue to work with Beijing to promote a peaceful settlement of the DPRK [North Korea] nuclear issue,” the top German diplomat said in a telephonic conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday.

"The two sides believe that Pyongyang's nuclear missile development violated the requirements of the UN Security Council", the Russian Foreign Ministry said, stressing on the need for "an early transition from words of sanctions to a negotiation process".

Friday’s UNSC sanctions were the ‘toughest yet’ and also targeted North Korean workers abroad. The resolution was passed unanimously but Russia's UN representative to the UN criticised the resolution saying that the US had rushed it through with several last-minute amendments.

The resolution's requirement of a 24-month period for North Korean workers to return home "is the minimum acceptable period necessary to deal with the logistical aspects of the issue," said Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN Vasilly Nebenzia.

"Unfortunately, our call to preclude a further escalation of tensions, to revise the policy of mutual intimidation, was not heeded," he said.

North Korea declared the UN move as an act of war and one that was trying to impose a complete economic blockade.

Recently, US sanctioned two North Korea nuclear experts, Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol over their alleged involvement in the country's ballistic missile programme. A statement by the US treasury noted that Kim was reportedly a major figure in North Korea's efforts to switch its missile program from liquid to solid fuel, while Ri was reported to be a key official in its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) development.

"Treasury is targeting leaders of North Korea’s ballistic missile programs, as part of our maximum pressure campaign to isolate (North Korea) and achieve a fully denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

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