President Vladimir Putin Warns North Korea Situation Has ‘Seriously Deteriorated’

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program is deepening after the issue dominated talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Moscow.

He and Abe believe the situation on the Korean peninsula has “seriously deteriorated,” Putin said Thursday after the Kremlin meeting. “We call on all states involved in the region’s affairs to refrain from military rhetoric and seek peaceful, constructive dialogue.”

Abe said he and Putin spent a long time discussing North Korea during the three hours of talks that also focused on resolving a seven-decade long dispute over four islands seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. The issue has prevented Russia and Japan from signing a peace accord.

The 17th meeting between the two leaders took place after Russia warned on Wednesday that the Korean peninsula is “on the brink of war.” Japan has sent warships to join drills with the U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, which is leading a battle group ordered to the region. President Donald Trump said in an interview with Reuters that there is a possibility of a “major, major conflict” with North Korea, though he prefers a diplomatic solution.

Putin and Abe are also trying to settle the dispute over the sovereignty of islands known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the South Kurils in Russia. They agreed to create plans for economic cooperation on the islands during talks at a Japanese hot-spring resort near Abe’s ancestral home in December.

Sanctions Talks

While Putin and Abe didn’t discuss possible new sanctions against North Korea, the issue may be taken up during talks between the Russian and Japanese foreign ministries, Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters after the meeting.

Putin said six-party talks on North Korea involving Russia, Japan, China, the U.S. and South Korea should be revived. Japan and Russia will continue to cooperate closely to urge North Korea to abide by United Nations Security Council resolutions and to abstain from “provocative actions,” Abe said.

Putin said he and Abe agreed to develop a list of “top priority” projects for cooperation on the Kurils, while Russia will provide a direct air connection to enable former Japanese residents to visit the graves of family members on the islands. Japanese officials and business people will travel to the islands as soon as May, Abe said. “The projects will at last take concrete form” through cooperation between the two countries, Abe added.

Resolving the territorial dispute will pave the way for Russia and Japan to sign a peace treaty, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “We expect that sooner or later there’ll be the political will to sign this important document,” he said.

The two leaders agreed to meet again on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Germany in July and Abe will attend an economic forum in Vladivostok in September for the second year running, public broadcaster NHK said.

“I want to seal a peace treaty between myself and Vladimir,” said Abe, who has vowed to resolve the issue during his premiership. “We have seen concrete progress, step by step over the past four months. Let’s put even more energy into reaching that goal.”

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Source: Bloomberg

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