“I do not even want to think about it,” Putin told the Austrian broadcaster ORF when asked about a potential nuclear showdown between the US and North Korea. The Russian leader also described the very idea of such a development as “dreadful.”
“Russia, of all countries, is not interested in it because North Korea is our neighbor,”Putin said, explaining that some Korean nuclear test sites are located less than a couple of hundred kilometers from the Russian border and “this is something absolutely real for us.”
The crisis on the Korean peninsula should be resolved exclusively through diplomatic means, he said, adding that Russia “pins great hopes on the personal meeting between [US] President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.” At the same time, he stressed that “the road towards denuclearization of North Korea should be a two-way road,” implying that Washington should also make some concessions instead of just placing demands on Pyongyang.
“If the North Korean leader is backing up his intentions with practical actions, for example, giving up new tests of ballistic missiles, new nuclear tests, the other side should reciprocate in a tangible manner,” Putin told ORF. He added that he considers continued US military exercises in the area “counterproductive.”
For its part, Russia “will do everything in [its] power to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” the president said. “We for our part are ready to exhaust every effort towards this end,” he pledged, pointing out that Moscow has always been in contact with Pyongyang.
Putin also praised Beijing for its efforts aimed at resolving the crisis on the peninsula. “China has done a great deal to direct the situation towards détente and denuclearization,” he said, suggesting also that returning to the framework of the Russia-China road map might help all parties concerned to “achieve the desired results.”
Back in September 2017 when the tension on the peninsula had drastically escalated, Russia and China presented a “double freeze” initiative, recommending that North Korea suspend its nuclear and missile program in exchange for the US and South Korea abandoning their military exercises in the region.
The proposal, however, was rejected by Washington. Trump, for his part, repeatedly traded insults with Kim Jong-un, leading that particular escalation to alarming levels. Later, however, he suddenly changed his rhetoric and started praising the North Korean leader.
The Russian president spoke to the Austrian media ahead of the forthcoming meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un, scheduled to be held in Singapore on June 12. Two weeks ago, however, Trump seemingly changed his mind as he accused Pyongyang of displaying “open hostility.” Last Friday, he changed his ground once again following his talks with a senior North Korean official and confirmed that the meeting will take place as planned.