Russia attempts to muscle in on North Korea's diplomacy
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, arrived in Pyongyang yesterday on a mission to get Moscow back into the diplomatic fray surrounding North Korea and, ultimately, boost Russia's economic and security standing in the region.
Mr Lavrov is paying his first visit to North Korea since April 2009 and was due to hold talks with North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho over bilateral relations and developments on the Korean peninsula.
Immediately after touching down, Mr Lavrov called for the phased lifting of sanctions on North Korea, suggesting Pyongyang would not give up nuclear weapons until sanctions were scaled back. "As for sanctions, it is absolutely obvious that, as we start discussions on how to resolve the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula, it is understood that the solution cannot be comprehensive without lifting sanctions," he said.
Given North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has met Xi Jinping, the Chinese premier, twice in recent weeks, Moscow is likely to have emphasised its long-standing support for successive regimes and pressed for a meeting with Mr Kim.