MOSCOW (Reuters, 2010.11.10) Russian President Dmitry Medvedev voiced alarm over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme in an interview published on Tuesday on the eve of his visit to South Korea.
Medvedev told South Korean media that Pyongyang’s programme “presents a systemic challenge to the international nuclear non-proliferation regime” and said he was worried about nuclear activities close to Russia’s borders.
“Naturally it alarms us that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions create military and political tension in Northeast Asia, in direct proximity to Russia’s eastern frontiers,” Medvedev said in the interview posted on the Kremlin website. “Not to mention that the North Korean nuclear testing ground is located just a little more than 100 km (62 miles) from our territory.”
North Korea’s nuclear activities are likely to come up in Medvedev’s talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and with world leaders attending a G20 summit in South Korea this week, including President Barack Obama and China’s Hu Jintao. As in the past, Medvedev stressed that the stand-off must be resolved through peaceful diplomacy.
A Soviet-era supporter of North Korea, Moscow is one of five regional powers — along with the United States, China, Japan, South Korea — pressing Pyongyang to curb nuclear activities. But six-way talks to denuclearise the Korean peninsula have been frozen since December 2008 because of disputes over how to verify North Korean steps to disable its nuclear programme, and Pyongyang declared the process dead earlier this year. Russia has voiced disquiet at Pyongyang’s tests of nuclear devices and a long-range missile since 2006.
Russia has also leaned harder on Iran, a longtime trade partner and weapons client, to rein in its nuclear energy programme in recent months, but Medvedev suggested North Korea was more of a threat. “Despite the fact that Iran is often given special attention, I should note that Tehran, unlike Pyongyang, has not declared itself a nuclear power, has not tested a nuclear weapon and … has not threatened to use one,” he said.
The Kremlin chief’s remarks preceded the imminent publication — delayed for months by China in an effort to protect states with which it has close relations — of a U.N. report suggesting that North Korea may have supplied Syria, Iran and Myanmar with banned nuclear technology.
Leonid Petrov‘s article “Russia’s ‘Power Politics’ and North Korea” can be viewed here…