19:49 GMT26 January 2021
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    Russian troops deployed in the Far East continue to serve as usual and have not been placed on alert despite the escalation of tensions around North Korea, a source in Russia's Eastern Military District told Sputnik.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The source's statement contradicts another one made earlier in the day by Russia's upper house of parliament lawmaker Viktor Ozerov, who told Sputnik that Russia’s air defense systems in the country's Far East region have been enhanced and put on a state of high alert in connection with the escalated situation around North Korea’s recent missile tests.

    "The Russian Armed Forces in the Far East, including air defense units, are serving as usual. No orders to switch to increased combat readiness has been made," the source said.

    Russia has repeatedly voiced concern over the escalation on the Korean peninsula. Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia opposes North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons, adding that the risk of Washington-Pyongyang conflict turning into a war is high.

    During Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow earlier this summer, the Russian and Chinese foreign ministries issued a joint statement proposing ways to de-escalate the situation. Moscow and Beijing called on Pyongyang to stop nuclear tests and urged Washington and Seoul to refrain from conducting joint drills.

    The tensions around North Korea have been high over the recent months and they have escalated further after the tightening of economic sanctions against North Korea by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Saturday in response to July's launches of ballistic missiles by Pyongyang.

    The move prompted harsh criticism from Pyongyang which subsequently vowed to use any means possible to retaliate against the United States after the UNSC approved the new US-drafted sanctions. Trump in turn, warned, that North Korea’s possible actions would be met with "fire and fury" from the United States. Following the statement, Pyongyang said it is considering an attack near the Pacific island of Guam where several US military bases were located.

    In response to Pyongyang's hostile rhetoric, Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said on Thursday that his country could strike down North Korean missiles fired toward Guam if they passed over Japanese territory. Also, Japanese media reported on Friday that additional anti-missile systems would be deployed by the country on August 12 in the four prefectures over which North Korea's ballistic missiles could potentially fly in the event of an attack near Guam.


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