Russia urges North Korea to help enable new international talks

MOSCOW (REUTERS) - Russia urged North Korea on Thursday to help pave the way for a resumption of international talks and told Pyongyang that ending the standoff over its nuclear programme would bring economic benefits.

North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan met separately in Moscow with two Russian deputy foreign ministers, Vladimir Titov and Igor Morgulov, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Russia "underscored the need for joint efforts aimed at easing tension and creating the conditions for the swift resumption of six-party talks on the basis of principles agreed in the declaration of Sept 19, 2005", it said in a statement.

That referred to a 2005 aid-for-denuclearisation deal that Russia, the United States (US) and other nations say Pyongyang violated by conducting a nuclear test in 2006 and pursuing a uranium enrichment programme that would give it a second path to a nuclear weapon, in addition to its plutonium-based programme.

Six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the US, Japan, Russia and China, collapsed in 2008 when the North walked away from the deal.

In Beijing last month, Mr Kim repeated an offer for a resumption of the talks, according to Chinese officials.

Neither Mr Kim nor the Russia diplomats spoke publicly on Thursday.

The Russian statement about creating conditions for the resumption of the six-party talks seemed to echo US statements that any talks must involve action by the North to show it is moving toward disarmament.

The call for efforts to ease tension signalled that if North Korea wants talks, it must refrain from actions such as nuclear tests and missile launches that have violated United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions.

Russia also held out a carrot.

The diplomats told Mr Kim that "normalising the situation on the peninsula" would enable Russia and North Korea to step up economic ties and "begin implementation of large-scale international economic projects", the ministry said.

That may have referred in part to a long-discussed pipeline to supply Russian natural gas to South Korea via North Korea, which experts say is highly unlikely to proceed anytime soon because of tension between North and South Korea.