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Moscow says US-South Korea military drills discourage de-escalation on Korean peninsula

The Russian Foreign Ministry is urging all the sides to show maximum caution

MOSCOW, August 24. /TASS/. Large-scale US-South Korea military drills dubbed Ulchi - Freedom Guardian do not contribute to de-escalating tension on the Korean peninsula, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

"Holding new large-scale naval drills by the United States and the Republic of Korea does not contribute to the de-escalation of tension on the Korean peninsula," the diplomat said.

"We urge all the sides to exercise extreme caution. As a result of beefing up the region with armaments, any reckless step or even an unintended incident may serve as a pretext for a military conflict," the spokeswoman said.

At the same time, the Russian side is registering "a certain decrease in the intensity of rhetoric, quite belligerent, around the Korean peninsula," the diplomat said.

"To our mind, an understanding is emerging, although with difficulty, that there is no alternative to the settlement of the entire range of problems in the sub-region by peaceful means," Zakharova said.

For this purpose, a dialogue process should be resumed "but first it is necessary to reduce military activity in the region," the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.

South Korea launched Ulchi - Freedom Guardian command and staff drills on its territory jointly with the United States on Monday, involving about 50,000 South Korean and 17,500 US troops.

North Korea considers the drills as hostile acts that are exacerbating the situation on the Korean peninsula. Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said that the drills are defensive in their nature and are not aimed at the escalation of tension in the region.

Russia ready for mediation efforts in Korean issue

Russia is ready to act as an intermediary in the Korean settlement process if needed, according to Zakharova.

"We have always argued in favor of galvanizing a six-party process as a model that will guarantee safeguarding of interests for different parties and, what is most important, achievement of the main goal of the peaceful settlement of the situation," the spokeswoman noted. "If Russia’s mediation efforts are needed, we are ready and open for it, and we have contributed to stepping-up of the political process as much as possible."