Thursday, February 01, 2007


Russia doesn't like North Korea's noo-kyuh-lur ambitions:

North Korea's nuclear weapons capability threatens Russian interests, Moscow's chief negotiator at international talks with Pyongyang said Wednesday, warning the country against carrying out another military test.

"Our interests are under threat," Alexander Losyukov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency, also cautioning North Korea against a repeat of last October's atomic bomb test.

"I think a very negative reaction would follow another test and that tougher measures would probably be taken," he said.

Analysts said Losyukov's statement marked a hardening of the Russian position on North Korea ahead of February 8 talks in Beijing -- involving China, Japan, South and North Korea, Russia and the United States -- to try to persuade Pyongyang to give up its military nuclear programme.

According to Losyukov, "concrete" results are unlikely in Beijing, but "it could be possible to lay out quite precisely the route toward achieving them."

Reflecting the growing flurry of diplomatic activity ahead of next week's negotiations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov talked by telephone with his South Korean counterpart Song Min-Soon to discuss "resolving the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula," Interfax reported.

South Korea's negotiator to the six-nation talks, Deputy Minister Chun Young-Woo, was due to meet with Losyukov in Moscow on Thursday to discuss a "road map" plan on the issue.

The last round of talks in China in December ended in deadlock after Pyongyang demanded the lifting of US sanctions imposed for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting.

The talks have continued intermittently since 2003, but gained new urgency when North Korea conducted its atomic test.

Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director at the USA-Canada think tank, said that Losyukov's message indicated that Russia was cutting back on longtime diplomatic support for North Korea.

"Russia's position has shifted and that could help push North Korea into a deal. They will see that no one is fighting for them," he said.

Another analyst, Anatoly Dyakov, head of the Centre for Study of Disarmament, Energy, and Ecology, said that Russia was right to toughen its stance.

"If Korea continues its nuclear programme, that will push the region out of control. Japan will be next, then Taiwan, and so on. Russia and China are worried."

Earlier this week Losyukov expressed "cautious optimism," saying that "simply the agreement to hold a new round shows that encouraging signs have appeared regarding the movement of different participants' positions."

He repeated this Wednesday, adding that both North Korea and the United States, the two countries most at loggerheads, were "now coming out with the biggest optimism."

However he tempered this with warnings about the effect of negotiations dragging on for too long with too little result.

"I personally think that this (weapon) test very much complicated the situation in the region and set back the process of the six-sided talks. The result is that we lose time and the process of nuclearisation on the peninsula goes further."


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