HANOVER, April 8 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin appealed on Monday for calm on the Korean Peninsula, warning that the escalation of tension in the region could lead to a nuclear disaster far worse than the Chernobyl incident.
“We are concerned about the escalation on the Korean Peninsula because we are neighbors and because if, God forbid, anything should happen there, Chernobyl, of which we are all only too aware, would seem like mere child’s play in comparison,” Putin said at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“I would like to call on everybody to calm down and to sit down at the negotiating table and calmly resolve the issues that have been accumulating there for many years ,” he said.
Tensions began to rise on the Korean Peninsula after international sanctions were imposed on North Korea in response to a long-range rocket launch in December, which world powers condemned as a ballistic missile test. North Korea responded by carrying out a third nuclear test in February, which was followed by more sanctions.
North Korea has threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the US mainland and US military bases in the region.
Some of its latest threats came after US and South Korean forces carried out annual joint military exercises, some of which took place near the maritime border between the two Koreas. The United States responded by deploying F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to the region, and making overflights of South Korea by B-2 and B-52 bombers.
North Korea reportedly moved two missiles capable of striking the US Pacific territory of Guam onto mobile launch pads on Friday, and advised foreign embassies to consider pulling staff out of Pyongyang.
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the world's worst such accident, took place in 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union). An explosion and fire at one of the reactors released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of western Russia and Europe.