Talks only way to end North Korea and US standoff, says Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned yesterday that the tense standoff between North Korea and the United States was on the verge of large-scale conflict and said it was a mistake to try to pressure Pyongyang over its nuclear missile programme.
Mr Putin, who is due to attend a summit of the Brics nations in China next week, wrote in an article published on the Kremlin's website ahead of his trip that he favoured negotiations with North Korea instead.
"It is essential to resolve the region's problems through direct dialogue involving all sides without advancing any preconditions (for such talks)," Mr Putin wrote. "Provocations, pressure, and bellicose and offensive rhetoric is the road to nowhere."
The situation on the Korean Peninsula had deteriorated so much that it was now "balanced on the verge of a large-scale conflict," said the Russian leader.
North Korea has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US and has recently threatened to land missiles near the US Pacific territory of Guam.
On Monday, Pyongyang, which sees joint war games between the United States and South Korea as preparations for invasion, raised the stakes in its stand-off with the US and its allies by firing an intermediate-range missile over Japan.
"In Russia's opinion the calculation that it is possible to halt North Korea's nuclear missile programmes exclusively by putting pressure on Pyongyang is erroneous and futile," Mr Putin wrote.
A road map formulated by Moscow and Beijing, which would involve North Korea stopping work on its missile programme in exchange for the US and South Korea halting large-scale war games, was a way to gradually reduce tensions, wrote Mr Putin.
Separately yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow would respond harshly to US measures designed to hurt it, a day after the United States told Russia to close its San Francisco consulate and buildings in Washington and New York.
Mr Lavrov, addressing Russian students, complained that the US had only given Moscow 48 hours to comply with its demands and hinted that Russia might look at ordering further reductions in US embassy staff.
He was speaking after the US told Russia on Thursday to close its consulate in San Francisco and buildings in Washington and New York that house trade missions in retaliation for Moscow cutting the US diplomatic presence in Russia.
"We'll react as soon as we finish our analysis," Mr Lavrov told students.
"But I want to say that this whole story with (the two countries) exchanging tit-for-tat sanctions was not started by us. It was started by the Obama administration to undermine US-Russia relations and to not allow (President Donald) Trump to advance constructive ideas or fulfil his pre-election pledges.
"We will respond harshly to things that damage us."