Russia 090417 Basic Political Developments

Russian FM to Visit N.Korea This Month

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Russian FM to Visit N.Korea This Month

Russia is to send Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to North Korea to persuade the renegade country to return to talks on its nuclear program. Russian government officials on Thursday said Lavrov will fly to Pyongyang around April 24 for a two-day stay and will tell his North Korean counterpart Pak Ui-chun of the Russian government's position that it is essential for the North to return to the six-party talks.

Lavrov will probably meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, to whom he will deliver a letter from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stressing the importance of finding a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue.

Lavrov is expected to ask the North to exercise restraint, while warning that its expulsion of an IAEA inspection team and moves to reopen nuclear facilities are not helpful.

He will also likely explain to the North that it is essential for it to return to the six-party talks in the near future and it is not desirable for the UN Security Council to reinforce sanctions. His visit will be the first by a Russian foreign minister since July 2004.

Russia does not want to see new sanctions against North Korea. News agency Interfax quoted Russian Vice Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin, the chief delegate to the six-party talks, as saying on Wednesday what is more important than anything is to resume the six-party talks. / Apr. 17, 2009 11:24 KST

Regional powers aim to rein in North Korea
Fri Apr 17, 2009 4:33am EDT

By Jon Herskovitz

SEOUL (Reuters) - Russia's foreign minister will visit North Korea next week, a source said on Friday, as regional powers try to prevent the state from restarting its nuclear arms plant and defuse tensions that have rattled regional security.

U.N. nuclear inspectors left North Korea on Thursday after an angry Pyongyang said it would boycott nuclear disarmament talks, expel inspectors and restart a plant that makes arms-grade plutonium in response to being chastised at the United Nations for launching a long-range rocket about two weeks ago.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit North Korea next week, a Foreign Ministry source told Reuters.

Lavrov will try to sway the reclusive North to return to six-way nuclear talks and abide by a disarmament-for-aid deal, according to a separate report from the South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo.

China, the North's biggest benefactor, wants the United States to engage Pyongyang directly in a bid to ease escalating tensions, China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told Japan's Nikkei newspaper.

"(China) hopes for an improvement and development of U.S.-North Korea relations," Yang, a former ambassador to Washington, said in an interview in Beijing.

China and Russia prevented North Korea from being hit with fresh sanctions for the launch, widely seen as a disguised long-range missile test that violated U.N. resolutions.

But they backed a U.N. Security Council statement on Monday condemning North Korea for the April 5 launch. Until that statement Beijing had avoided open criticism, instead suggesting it was a legitimate satellite launch as Pyongyang claimed.

Beijing's handling of impoverished North Korea has wobbled in past days, suggesting policymakers did not anticipate the full force of Pyongyang's anger.


China, whose energy and food aid to North Korea prop up its economy, has the strongest voice in persuading North Korea to return to the sputtering nuclear talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, analysts said.

North Korea, which was hit with U.N. sanctions after missile tests in July 2006 and its only nuclear test a few months later, has used its military threat for years to gain global attention and squeeze concessions out of regional powers.

By making these moves early in the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, it has more cards to play during his presidency and forces him to make crucial decisions about how it will manage its relations with Pyongyang, analysts said.

The Obama administration is unlikely to hold direct talks with North Korea over the nuclear threats because it could be seen as a sign of rewarding Pyongyang's bad behavior, diplomatic sources have said.

However, North Korea may discuss terms for releasing two U.S. journalists it detained last month near its border with China -- Euna Lee and Laura Ling of California-based media outlet Current TV -- as a way to engage in direct talks with Washington.

"(The matter) could spark a back-channel negotiation, which could ultimately open the door for bilateral talks later on," said Yun Duk-min of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security in Seoul.

Market players in North Asia, which accounts for one-sixth of the global economy, have been unfazed by the North's latest actions, seen as typical saber rattling.

But North Korea could ratchet up tension if it followed through on its threat to restart its aging Yongbyon nuclear plant, which was being dismantled under the six-way nuclear deal in return for massive aid and better diplomatic standing.

It will take at least a year to resume all activities at the plant, which has produced enough fissile material for six to eight nuclear bombs, experts said.

However, it may only take as little as three months for the North to restore its plutonium separation facility. North Korea could extract enough fissile material for one bomb from fuel rods cooling at Yongbyon, they said.

(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley in BEIJING, Dmitry Solovyov in Moscow, Linda Sieg in Tokyo and Kim Junghyun and Jack Kim in Seoul; Editing by Jerry Norton)

Medvedev, Aliyev to discuss Azeri gas deliveries

MOSCOW, April 17 (Itar-Tass) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev will meet on Friday to discuss gas deliveries from Azerbaijan, the legal status of the Caspian Sea and the settlement of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The agenda comprises the consideration of new promising cooperation guidelines in the energy sector related to the expansion of the sales markets for Azerbaijani natural gas,” a Kremlin official told Tass, adding bilateral trade turnover has grown 2.5-fold since 2005 and comprised 2.4 billion US dollars last year.

Azerbaijan is the only country that can supply natural gas to the US and EU-backed Nabucco project, that is to deliver it to Europe bypassing Russia.

However, in March Russia’s Gazprom and Azerbaijani oil company SOCAR signed a memorandum that includes a statement of deliveries, beginning in January 2010, of Azerbaijani natural gas to Russia on the boundary conditions, DAF Azerbaijan / Russia. In the near future the Baku - Novo Filya pipeline, part of the transmission system of Azerbaijan, which runs from Baku to the Russian border on the Caspian coast, will be inspected. The length of the pipeline is about 200 km.

The memorandum made experts claim Nabucco is doomed, as it will be left without Azerbaijani gas. However, SOCAR chief Rovnag Abdullayev played down the fears saying “We are interested in the Nabucco project and we are holding talks with the participants in this project.”

The Kremlin official also said one of the focal issues will be the settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In November 2008 the trilateral Russian-Azerbaijani-Armenian summit in Moscow signed a declaration calling for a political settlement of the conflict. Russia, as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group for Nagorno-Karabakh, promotes the search for a compromise.

“It is also expected that issues of the legal status of the Caspian Sea will be considered, as well as an agreed approach to the development of multilateral cooperation in the Caspian Sea,” the Kremlin official said.

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