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China and Russia propose plan for halt to North Korean weapons program

July 05,2017
China and Russia proposed a dual-track approach in which North Korea halts its nuclear and missile tests, while the United States and South Korea refrain from large-scale military exercises, through a joint statement by their foreign ministries Tuesday.

The joint initiative to deescalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula outlines that such a double suspension could lay a foundation for talks with the North.

The statement followed Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s summit at the Kremlin, and North Korea’s announcement that it had tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Tuesday.

China and Russia condemned the regime's latest missile test as "unacceptable," pointing out that it is in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, and urged it to refrain from "any statements or actions that could lead to an increase in tensions.”

The foreign ministries’ joint statement read: "The two sides propose that the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), as a voluntary political decision, declares a moratorium on testing nuclear explosive devices and ballistic rocket launches, and the U.S. and South Korea refrain from carrying out large-scale joint exercises.”

It added, "Parallel to this, the opposing sides should start negotiations and affirm general principles of their relations including the non-use of force, rejection of aggression and peaceful co-existence.”

China has previously pushed for such a dual-track approach for peace treaty talks with the North to proceed simultaneously with denuclearization negotiations. Russia likewise has pushed for a step-by-step plan to reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula.

"Our mutual priorities include a comprehensive resolution of the problems of the Korean Peninsula in order to ensure lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia," Putin was quoted as saying by Russia’s state-run Tass news agency.

Xi made a two-day state visit to Moscow on Monday and Tuesday to meet with Putin, who awarded Xi with the Order of St. Andrew for his distinguished service to the peoples of China and Russia, Tass further reported.

China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that Xi said Beijing and Moscow were each other's "most trustworthy strategic partners” and that the two countries’ relations are now at their "best time in history."

The two leaders also renewed their opposition to the deployment of the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system in Korea.

This marks the two leaders’ third meeting this year and comes as U.S. President Donald Trump has been criticizing Beijing for not doing enough to rein in Pyongyang, insinuating that he might be reassessing his North Korea policy.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in gained Trump’s support last week for his “phased and comprehensive” approach to solving the North Korea nuclear issue, and the two leaders agreed to use sanctions and dialogue. Trump emphasized enhancing trilateral cooperation between South Korea, the United States and Japan during his summit with Moon.

But Moon Chung-in, South Korean presidential special adviser for unification, foreign and national security affairs, last month said during a visit to Washington that Seoul could consult with the United States to scale down joint military exercises and reduce the deployment of U.S. weapons to the South.

While the Blue House issued a warning to the Yonsei University professor over the remarks, which raised concern in Washington, some analysts say the Moon Jae-in administration, which favors more engagement with the North, could have been testing the waters.

The leaders of the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea will attend the Group of 20 summit on Friday and Saturday in Hamburg, Germany.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]