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Russia hopes for de-escalation on Korean Peninsula but chances are vague - Lavrov

According to the Russian top diplomat, the United States is strongly opposed to the initiative of the so-called double freeze

MOSCOW, February 11. /TASS/. Russia still hopes tensions on the Korean Peninsula may be eased but thinks that chances are not very big due to Washington’s position, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the Deistvuyushchiye Litsva (Political Actors) with Nailya Asker-zade program on the Rossiya-1 television channel on Sunday.

According to the Russian top diplomat, the United States is strongly opposed to the initiative of the so-called double freeze, a basic provision of the Russian-Chinese roadmap for settling the situation around North Korea. "But when the situation is getting close to the dangerous red line, the one who is stronger and wiser should be the first to make a step back," Lavrov stressed. "So far, let us hope for some de-escalation, although the chances are not very big, bearing in mind Washington’s position."

The Russian foreign minister drew a parallel between the Iranian nuclear deal, which is now under a risk of breakdown, and Washington’s demands to Pyongyang. "The deal on the Iranian nuclear program was very clear: Iran abandons all military aspects of its nuclear activities in exchange of lifting the sanctions that were imposed by the United Nations, the United States and Western countries unilaterally," Lavrov said. "Now, generally speaking, the United States demands the same from North Korea, i.e. that it stop its nuclear program in exchange of security guarantees and sanction lifting."

"But once the United States is now seeking to frustrate, break down the same deal with Iran, North Korea’s leaders are sure to see the parallels," he stressed.

In his words, the Korean Peninsula’s nuclear problem is complicated by the fact that the United States is using North Korea’s nuclear program as a pretext to buff up its "absolutely disproportional military presence" in the region.

Building up its military force in the region, Washington is obviously having in mind not only North Korea but also the South China Sea, where China is negotiating territorial disputes with ASEAN countries, Lavrov noted. "Increased presence of the US navy and air force in this region may objectively, if not deliberately, provoke the use of military means to resolve these disputes," he said. "I think these are very dangerous games."

"Using the same old North Korean nuclear problem as a pretext, the United States is deploying it missile defense facilities in South Korea and now in Japan," the Russian top diplomat pointed. "Along with the European segment of the US’ global missile shield, which is clearly seen on maps, this entire system, accidentally or not, is practically encircling Russia along the entire perimeter and now is being aimed at China as well."

"It is in our interests not to give rise to such tendencies," he stressed. "And so, it is necessary to sit down at a negotiating table."

According to Lavrov, the process of ‘double freeze’ is de facto taking place after the Olympic Winter Games have kicked off in South Korea’s PyeongChang. "North Korea, at least ahead and during the Olympic Games, is not planning any reckless moves," he explained. "We have also heard that no US and South Korean drills are planned at least till March."

"Once this objective process of reciprocal restraint and refraining from drills and tests gains its own dynamics, there will be chance to move towards talks. We will do our best to encourage this process," he pledged.