Russia, China push plan to defuse tension

August 12, 2017 12:00 am | Updated 03:38 am IST - Moscow/Beijing/Berlin

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday cautioned that the risks of escalation of tensions between the United States and North Korea were “very high” following the recent war of words between Washington and Pyongyang.

“I believe the risks are very high, especially considering this rhetoric, when direct threats of using force are voiced,” Mr. Lavrov said at a youth forum in the Vladimir region east of Moscow.

Mr. Lavrov did not refer to President Donald Trump’s “locked and loaded” remark in the event of a misstep by North Korea, but said Moscow was “very alarmed” at Washington’s rhetoric of pre-emptive military action.

He added that the United States, as a more powerful state than North Korea, should take the first step to cool tensions. “When a fight has nearly broken out, the first step away from the dangerous threshold should be taken by the side that is stronger and smarter,” Mr. Lavrov said.

Tone down rhetoric

Moscow has joined China to push an initiative that would see Pyongyang halt missile tests in return for the US ending military drills in the region.

“Kim Jong-un freezes any nuclear tests or ballistic missile launches, while the U.S. and South Korea freeze massive military drills that are constantly used by North Korea as a pretext for holding tests and proclamations about relying on their nuclear power,” Mr. Lavrov said of the plan.

The “double freeze” plan would be a step toward the goal of “de-nuclearising the Korean peninsula,” he said. “Unfortunately, the rhetoric in Washington and Pyongyang is starting to go over the top," he said. “We hope that common sense will prevail.” He added that Moscow “does not accept a nuclear North Korea”.

Earlier, Global Times , a state-run newspaper, said on Friday that China should remain neutral if North Korea launches an attack that threatens the U.S. China’s Foreign Ministry called on all sides to speak and act with caution.

Reacting to Mr. Trump’s statements, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin that she opposed any use of force to resolve the conflict. “I don’t envision a military solution to this conflict but rather consistent work as we’ve observed at the United Nations Security Council,” she said.

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