MOSCOW (AFP, REUTERS) - Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Friday (Sept 1) of a "major conflict" looming on the Korean Peninsula, calling for talks to alleviate the crisis after Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan this week.
"The problems in the region will only be solved via direct dialogue between all concerned parties, without preconditions," Putin said.
"Threats, pressure and insulting and militant rhetoric are a dead end," a statement from his office said, adding that heaping additional pressure on North Korea in a bid to curb its nuclear programme was "wrong and futile."
Putin said he feared the peninsula was "on the verge of a major conflict" and called for all sides to sign up to a mediation programme drawn up by Moscow and Beijing.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest point in years after a series of missile tests by Pyongyang.
Early on Tuesday, the reclusive state fired an intermediate-range Hwasong-12 over Japan, prompting US President Donald Trump to insist that "all options" were on the table in an implied threat of pre-emptive military action.
The UN Security Council denounced North Korea's latest missile test, unanimously demanding that Pyongyang halt the programme.
US heavy bombers and stealth jet fighters took part in a joint live fire drill in South Korea on Thursday, intended as a show of force against the North, Seoul said.
Putin's comments echoed those Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who, in a Wednesday telephone call with US counterpart Rex Tillerson, "underscored... the need to refrain from any military steps that could have unpredictable consequences."
The Russia-China plan involves a mutual pause in missile tests by North Korea and joint South Korean-US military exercises by Seoul.
FRANCE URGES CHINA TO DO MORE
Meanwhile in Paris, France's foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said North Korea would have capability to send long-range ballistic missiles in a few months and urged China to be more active diplomatically to resolve the crisis.
"The situation is extremely serious... we see North Korea setting itself as an objective to have tomorrow or the day after missiles that can transport nuclear weapons. In a few months that will be a reality," Le Drian told RTL radio.
"At the moment, when North Korea has the means to strike the United States, even Europe, but definitely Japan and China, then the situation will be explosive," he said.
Le Drian, who spoke to his Chinese counterpart on Thursday, said everything had to be done to ensure a latest round of United Nations sanctions was implemented and urged China, Pyongyang's main trade partner, to do its utmost to enforce them.
"North Korea must find the path to negotiations. It must be diplomatically active."