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Russia ‘not ready to strangle’ North Korea with more bans

US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin as they pose for a group photo ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit leaders gala dinner in the central Vietnamese city of Danang, on November 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Russia says it is not ready to “strangle” North Korea economically with new stringent sanctions.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov said the degree of pressure on North Korea was approaching “a red line,” Russia’s Interfax news agency reported on Friday.

North Korea says decades of foreign pressure and threats, manifested in repeated joint military drills by the US and its regional allies, have forced it to pursue a sophisticated weapons program and develop deterrent intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Washington has long opposed that program, and tensions over Pyongyang’s continuous missile and nuclear development have recently skyrocketed.

The US has been pressing for a complete shut-off of oil supplies to North Korea with newer sanctions.

Morgulov urged dialog instead of harsher sanctions.

He said Moscow had not had high-level contacts with the new North Korean leadership but such communication was possible “in theory.”

Morgulov said Russia had many other communication channels with North Korea, which “in one way or another are bearing fruit.”

Trump, Putin discuss North Korea

On Thursday, during a phone call, the presidents of the US and Russia discussed means of de-escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The White House and the Kremlin said in separate statements that Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had discussed North Korea, agreeing to cooperate with one another to resolve a crisis over Pyongyang’s weapons programs.

The White House said the two talked about “working together to resolve the very dangerous situation in North Korea.”

The Kremlin said Trump and Putin discussed North Korea and also reviewed bilateral relations.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently said the US was willing to enter into negotiations with North Korea without preconditions.

US repeats offer of unconditional talks

The US’s special envoy for North Korea on Friday expressed hope that Pyongyang would accept Tillerson’s diplomatic offer of unconditional talks.

Joseph Yun told reporters in Bangkok that the talks could take place without preconditions. Yun acknowledged it was unclear whether North Korea would be willing to talk following a period of accelerated nuclear activity, saying, “It’s very hard to discern what their intent is without having real dialog.”

“Let’s see how they respond... I am very hopeful that diplomacy has a long way to go before any next steps are considered,” he said.

This is while the White House which under Trump has used fiery and sometimes derogatory rhetoric against North Korea, earlier contradicted Tillerson by saying time was not right to talk to North Korea.

A National Security Council spokesperson also said on Wednesday that North Korea must not only first refrain from provocations but take “sincere and meaningful actions toward denuclearization.”

Following the Trump-Putin phone conversation, the White House also said Trump had thanked Putin “for acknowledging America’s strong economic performance in his annual press conference.”

On Thursday, Putin had commended Trump for his performance in his one year in office and called for cooperation between the two countries on common international issues.

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