- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

MOSCOW | Russia and China urged North Korea on Wednesday to return to the negotiating table on the fate of its rogue nuclear programs - an unusual joint appeal from two U.N. Security Council members who have resisted more punitive U.S. measures against Pyongyang.

The appeal, which also expressed “serious concern” about tensions on the Korean Peninsula, came just hours after North Korea warned of a “thousand-fold” military retaliation against the United States and its allies if it is provoked.

The fact that the Chinese and Russian leaders used their meetings in Moscow to jointly pressure North Korea appeared to be a signal that Moscow and Beijing are growing impatient with Pyongyang’s stubbornness. And with Washington and Pyongyang exchanging near daily rhetorical salvos, Russia and China appeared to be positioning themselves as moderators in the dispute.

After meetings at the Kremlin, Chinese President Hu Jintao joined Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in urging a peaceful resolution of the Korean standoff and the “swiftest renewal” of the now-frozen talks involving their countries as well as North Korea and South Korea, Japan and the United States.

“Russia and China are ready to foster the lowering of tension in Northeast Asia and call for the continuation of efforts by all sides to resolve disagreements through peaceful means, through dialogue and consultations,” the statement said.

Hours earlier, North Korea reacted angrily to President Obama’s declaration that the communist country was a “grave threat” to the world. Mr. Obama spoke during a summit with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Washington.

“If the U.S. and its followers infringe upon our republic’s sovereignty even a bit, our military and people will launch a one hundred- or one thousand-fold retaliation with merciless military strike,” the government-run Minju Joson newspaper said in a commentary.

China and Russia long resisted efforts by Washington to impose stricter sanctions or other punitive measures on North Korea. But after North Korea conducted a second nuclear test May 25 in defiance of the United Nations, Beijing and Moscow joined with the United States and other U.N. Security Council members in passing new tough sanctions.

Those measures include an arms embargo, authorizing ship searches for nuclear and ballistic missile cargo and depriving the North Korean regime of the financing used to build its nuclear program.

Japanese and South Korean news reports said North Korea was preparing another site to test-fire a missile that experts say could be capable of striking the United States.

In Vienna, Austria, senior delegates of the United States and other countries discussed the situation Wednesday with the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The lead U.S. envoy, Geoffrey Pyatt, excoriated the North for abandoning the six-party negotiations.

“We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state,” Mr. Pyatt said, according to a statement.

“We believe it is in North Korea’s own best interests to return to serious negotiations.”

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