Russia shrugs off reports North Korea may be preparing bomb material

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) shows the way to Choe Ryong Hae, a close aide of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, during a meeting in Moscow, Nov 20, 2014. Russia on Thursday shrugged off reports that North Korea may be firing up a f
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) shows the way to Choe Ryong Hae, a close aide of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, during a meeting in Moscow, Nov 20, 2014. Russia on Thursday shrugged off reports that North Korea may be firing up a facility for processing weapons-grade plutonium as Pyongyang threatened a fresh nuclear test. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia on Thursday shrugged off reports that North Korea may be firing up a facility for processing weapons-grade plutonium as Pyongyang threatened a fresh nuclear test.

"Right now a lot of statements are appearing that some preparations are under way for new tests or the resumption or ramping up of activity in the nuclear and rocket spheres," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"First of all, it is best to put forward such statements when they are based on facts - not through the media," Lavrov told reporters after talks with a special envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

"This is why we propose that the activities of a working group on peace and security on the Korean peninsula be resumed," Lavrov said after talks with Choe Ryong-Hae.

Such work, Russia's top diplomat said, would allow the parties to address all concerns "without politicisation".

"We are hoping that our partners will support our proposals to resume the work of the group."

Choe did not address the media.

Russia, the United States, China, South Korea and Japan have for years sought to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

The negotiations known as six-party talks began in 2003 but have been long dormant.

New satellite imagery shows steam rising from a re-processing plant at the North's main Yongbyon nuclear complex - a sign consistent with maintenance and testing prior to commencing operations, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said on its closely followed 38 North website.

The new analysis coincided with fresh threats from Pyongyang to carry out a new underground nuclear test following the UN adoption of a landmark resolution that condemns North Korean rights abuses.

Lavrov slammed as "counter-productive" the UN resolution that lays the groundwork for putting the Stalinist regime in the dock for crimes against humanity.

Choe, who is on a week-long visit to Russia, was received by President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Tuesday.