MOSCOW (Sputnik) — North Korea is ready to hold talks to solve the nuclear crisis without the recognition of its nuclear power status as a pre-condition for the talks, and Pyongyang believes that Russia, unlike the United States, can play a substantial role in resolving the situation on the Korean peninsula, Russian lawmakers told Sputnik after visiting North Korea as a delegation.
Pyongyang has explained its latest missile launch by an alleged US threat, provoking the country to show its military capabilities and to guarantee its own security.
A delegation of Russian State Duma lawmakers paid an official visit to North Korea from November 27 to December 1 and held a number of meetings with local officials and lawmakers, including Deputy North Korean Foreign Minister Sin Hong Chol and Deputy Chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Ri Su Yong.
The delegation expressed Russia's position over the latest North Korean ballistic missile launch, condemned the launch and expressed hope that the conflicting sides would be able to remain calm, in order to avoid a worst-case scenario for the Korean Peninsula.
Late on Tuesday, North Korea initiated yet another ballistic missile launch, with an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) flying 950 kilometers (590 miles) and reaching an altitude of 4,475 kilometers. The flight lasted for 53 minutes, after which the missile fell into the Sea of Japan, within the Japanese exclusive economic zone. Pyongyang later announced in an official statement that this was a Hwasong-15 missile, which is capable of reaching targets within the United States.
This stance was confirmed by a South Korean Defense Ministry statement on Friday, which states that the new Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, provided it is fired at a normal angle, is capable of flying over 13,000 km, thus capable of reaching the United States.
Are They Ready for Talks?
After the visit, Russian lawmakers said that North Korea was ready to hold talks to resolve the crisis. At the same time, Pyongyang believes that Russia can play a considerable role in this respect and that Moscow alone can guarantee a political settlement.
"They are ready to talk and to hold talks. But they obviously mistrust everyone, except for Russia. My impression is that only Russia could act as a guarantor of such talks. This is understandable because you can see how the US side behaves. During the bloody Korean War of 1950-1953, the United States dropped one bomb virtually per each North Korean. The war was followed by permanent sanctions and so on. They deem the US impossible to negotiate with," Kazbek Taisayev, who is in charge of a Russian parliamentary group coordinating with the North Korean legislature, said.
North Korea realizes that it is impossible to resolve this crisis without Russia, the lawmaker noted, adding that North Korean authorities are also ready to conduct a dialogue within the roadmap proposed by Russia for resolving the crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
"We have discussed these issues. All this is a subject for discussion, and we have reviewed this Russian initiative. Some aspects are accepted, and some are not, but, most importantly, there is a dialogue on these issues. They are ready to conduct a dialogue, and they realize that Russia plays a big role," Taisayev said.
So far, Pyongyang has not approved a plan for resolving the nuclear situation, nor has it approved the Russia-China double-freeze plan urging North Korea to renounce new missile and nuclear tests and calling for a cessation of large-scale US and South Korean military exercises, Alexei Chepa, deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, said.
"North Korea has so far declined to accept a plan for resolving the nuclear situation, it has also refused to accept the double-freeze process proposed by Russia and China," Chepa said.
Neither the United States nor North Korea is currently displaying a readiness to launch the talks, Chepa noted.
"Over these 75 days after the previous missile launch, the United States has done nothing to convince North Korea that the talks are possible. This did not happen. So far, we can only hear threats from the United States and talk about sanctions. North Koreans say they are not afraid of sanctions, and that they will live with them for 100 years," Chepa added.
Pyongyang did not mention the recognition of the country’s nuclear power status as a pre-condition for the talks, Vitaly Pashin, a member of the lawmakers' delegation, said.
In October 2017, North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun (Workers’ Newspaper) published a comment suggesting a peaceful coexistence with the United States if Washington recognizes the country’s nuclear power status.
"They are voicing a pre-condition on the recognition of their nuclear power status, but this does not mean that Pyongyang is ready to hold talks only if this status is recognized. They are ready for talks in general, and as part of that they are ready to either examine various possible options, such as recognizing the country’s nuclear power status or focusing on delivery systems," he said.
It became clear during a discussion of the latest missile launch that, in Pyongyang’s opinion, North Korea has thus displayed its military capabilities to the world.
"North Korean representatives believe that, by developing the new Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, they will be able to achieve parity … with the United States, and that they will, therefore, guarantee peace for their country. This is their main position, the latest missile launch has revealed the country’s capabilities to the world. In their opinion, this will guarantee the country’s subsequent security," Chepa said.
Pyongyang motivated the latest missile launch by ongoing US threats with regard to North Korea, and this position was voiced during talks with all North Korean representatives.
During the trip, Russian lawmakers explained Moscow’s position on the crisis, Chepa said.
"We have expressed our position and explained the situation as we see it. Regional security does not only amount to North Korea’s security. This also implies the security of Russia and China," the lawmaker said, adding that North Korean representatives heard the Russian position during a confidential conversation.
According to Pyongyang representatives, their warheads can hit any place in the United States, Pashin noted.
"To quote them, their warheads can hit any place in the United States at anytime. They say that the DPRK has an intercontinental ballistic missile, and that they are ready to use it," Pashin said, quoting North Korean representatives.
At the same time, Pyongyang notes that the latest ballistic missile launch did not violate the sovereignty of any state.
The North Korean side also believes that expanded sanctions only serve to make their country stronger, according to Pashin.
"They say their country is self-sufficient, that they are achieving scientific and technological progress and a well-developed industry. They have confidence in themselves, and, in their opinion, sanctions only make them stronger," he added.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula further escalated Wednesday after the North launched its new intercontinental ballistic missile. Pyongyang claimed the ICBM put the entire territory of the US within its striking range.
The United States responded with new threats of using military force against the reclusive state. Speaking at an urgent UN Security Council gathering, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warned that the continued acts of Korean aggression could lead to a war that would leave North Korea's leadership "totally destroyed."
Commenting on Pyongyang's move, the Kremlin called the ballistic missile test, which violated UN Security Council resolutions, a provocation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday said options for stepping up sanctions against the North were all but exhausted and warned Washington that its response could only exacerbate the crisis and make the North's leader "snap."