- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

MOSCOW, Jan. 10 (UPI) — The leaders of Russia and Japan issued a joint statement Friday expressing disappointment and concern over North Korea's announcement that it is withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, in Moscow on an official visit, urged President Vladimir Putin to intervene in the crisis by using his personal relationship with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il to help mediate between Pyongyang and the outside world.

Koizumi said he believed Moscow could play a "vital role" in resolving the crisis.

While Putin has not yet spoken out on the latest move by North Korea, a joint statement issued after his talks with Koizumi said Russia and Japan were equally concerned with "the recent development of the situation concerning North Korea's nuclear program, in particular North Korea's announcement that it intends to withdraw from the NPT and its refusal to abide to the agreements of the accord with the International Atomic Energy Agency."

Earlier, the Japanese premier told Russia's Itar-Tass news agency that Tokyo would "ask North Korea to reverse its decision."

Koizumi said Japan would "work with the United States, South Korea and other interested parties as well as the IAEA."

In a separate statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow was "deeply concerned" and "alarmed" by North Korea's move.

"There is no doubt that such a step can only aggravate the already tense atmosphere around the Korean peninsula and strike a significant blow to … global and regional security," the ministry statement said.

Russia "hopes Pyongyang will heed the unanimous opinion of the world community and of its neighbors and partners and choose to respect its international obligations with respect to non-proliferation," the statement said.

Russian Nuclear Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev was quoted as saying Russia could help bring North Korea back within the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Rumyantsev said Russia's "mighty potential" could "assist in the resolution of the conflict," Itar-Tass reported.

Under Putin, Russia has rapidly improved its relationship with the North Korean regime and is now well positioned to use its diplomatic influence in an attempt to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear development program in exchange for security guarantees from the United States.

Moscow has asked North Korea to abide by a 1994 agreement that froze all North Korean nuclear programs in exchange for energy supplies.

Diplomatic sources in Moscow told United Press International the Russian and Chinese leaders are in regular contact because of the North Korean crisis.

China, along with Russia, has one of the best relations with the secretive North Korean regime, and is equally concerned by the development.




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