Russia Takes Point: Offers to Mediate Between U.S. and North Korea
A spokesman from the Kremlin intimated on Tuesday that Russia is ready and willing to mediate peace talks between the United States and North Korea as tensions continue to grow leading many to believe war would be imminent in 2018.
Dmitry Peskov’s revelation came just a few days after the United Nations Security Council imposed a new set of sanctions on North Korea that were tougher and would have harsher implications economically:
However Peskov believes that for negotiations to move toward a peaceful resolution, both the U.S. and North Korea must be willing participants as well.
The UNSC’s latest round of sanctions targeted energy supplies, lowered the cap on oil exports, tightened restrictions on smuggling and prohibited member-nations from hiring North Korean workers for overseas assignments.
Russia had been critical of the U.N. resolution. Vasilly Nebenzia, Russian ambassador to the U.N. believes the resolution was rushed due to pressure from the U.S. In particular, Nebenzia pointed out the provision which aimed at restricting employment of North Korean workers.
There are an estimated 40,000 North Koreans working in Russia. The U.S. has reason to believe North Korea could be diverting these earnings to fund the government and its nuclear arms development program.
Nebezia stressed there should be a 24 month transition period for North Korean workers to return back home. He argued the resolution failed to consider the logistical aspects of terminating existing employment contracts.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury announced it was sanctioning two prominent officials of North Korea for their involvement in the country’s nuclear arms development program.
The North Korean officials were identified as Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol. Both officials are believed to be crucial for the development of the regime’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
With the sanctions, both Kim and Ri will have their properties and other assets blocked in the United States and they will be prevented from dealing with any citizen of the U.S.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov encouraged the United States and North Korea to proceed with the dialogue but urged the U.S. to make the first move.
“I think the first step forward should be done by the party which is mightier and which is smarter, and we’ve held that there are people in the U.S. who believe the situation should be resolved through diplomatic means.”
Lavrov who had a call with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, said he urged his counterpart in Washington to downplay tensions in the Korean peninsula by toning down the rhetoric and cutting back on military preparations in the area.