Moscow urges restraint over North Korea

DAYA MYAKINA
Last updated 01:51 31/03/2013

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Moscow urged restraint in the Korean peninsular today, after North Korea said it was entering a "state of war" with South Korea in a further escalation of its bellicose rhetoric against Seoul and its main ally, the United States.

"We hope that all parties will exercise maximum responsibility and restraint and no one will cross the point of no return," senior Russian Foreign Ministry official Grigory Logvinov told Interfax news agency.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Friday put missile units on standby to attack US military bases in the South and the Pacific, after two nuclear-capable US stealth bombers flew over the Korean peninsula in a rare show of force.

"We expect that everyone understands that a recurrence of the war on the peninsula is definitely unacceptable," Logvinov told news agency RIA.

When asked by reporters if Pyongyang had the same understanding, Logvinov said: "Of course. We were in contact with the North Korean side".

US officials said the B-2 bombers were on a diplomatic sortie aimed at reassuring allies South Korea and Japan and were also aimed at trying to nudge Pyongyang back to dialogue.

"At least at this point, we see that the statements (of Washington) are rather restrained. The position of the American side is a bit reassuring," Logvinov told RIA.

Russia warned on Friday that the heightened military activity was slipping into a "vicious cycle" that could get out of control.

Tension has been high since North Korea conducted a third nuclear weapons test in February in breach of UN sanctions and despite warnings from China for it not to do so.

As tensions rose close to Russia's eastern borders, President Vladimir Putin made staff changes within the Security Council, promoting Yuri Averyanov, with experience of Far East affairs, to the first deputy of the top security chief.

Averyanov moved to the Security Council in 2006 after six years as Putin's deputy representative for the Russian Far East.

Meanwhile, the White House said that it takes North Korea's latest saber-rattling threats seriously while cautioning that Pyongyang has a long history of bellicose rhetoric.

"We've seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from North Korea. We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean allies," said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.

"But, we would also note that North Korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats and today's announcement follows that familiar pattern," she said.

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The Pentagon has also been beefing up US missile defense capabilities on the West Coast. The United States has been stressing that it has the capability and willingness to protect itself and US allies in the region.

"We remain fully prepared and capable of defending and protecting the United States and our allies," said Hayden. "We continue to take additional measures against the North Korean threat, including our plan to increase the US ground-based interceptors and early warning and tracking radar," and the recent signing of a South Korean-US counter-provocation plan.

- Reuters

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