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Putin calls for guaranteeing N. Korea's security to resolve nuclear quandary

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday. (AP-Yonhap)
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday. (AP-Yonhap)

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for guaranteeing the security of North Korea to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program, stressing that pressure and sanctions alone are not going to solve the quandary.

Putin made the remark during a virtual session with chiefs of global news agencies at an annual economic forum in St. Petersburg on Friday (Russia time), as the nuclear negotiations between the North and the United States remain deadlocked after the breakdown of the Hanoi summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then-US President Donald Trump in early 2019.

"The North Korean nuclear problem is not going to be resolved by pressuring the North and toughening the sanctions against it," Putin said through an interpreter when asked by Cho Sung-boo, CEO and president of Yonhap News Agency in Seoul to comment on Moscow's stance on North Korean nuclear issues.

"Only by ensuring the security of its people, and with patience and a careful approach, should we be able to resolve this problem," he said.

Moscow has favored a phased-in approach to denuclearize the North that would come with reciprocal steps, including a partia lifting of UN sanctions, as the regime takes measures to roll back its nuclear program.

Putin blamed the US for the deadlock in nuclear negotiations.

"The North Korean leadership showed a constructive attitude, but the countries like the US seems to have abandoned the promise (they made) to the North," he said. 

The nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington broke down as they failed to find common ground over how to match Pyongyang's denuclearization steps with sanctions relief from Washington.

Putin called for efforts toward working out a solution that "will be accepted by all concerned countries," apparently reaffirming its stance advocating for some form of a multilateral dialogue platform similar to the six-party talks.

Putin also expressed hope for Russia to resume trilateral economic cooperation projects with the two Koreas, apparently referring to a railway project linking the North's port city of Rajin and Russia' border town of Khasan.

The project got bogged down after Pyongyang's nuclear test and long-range rocket launch in 2016.

South Korea has invited Putin to visit Seoul. When Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong in Seoul in March, the two sides agreed to work together to realize Putin's visit at an early date.

But on Friday, Putin offered no comment on Cho's question if he plans to visit South Korea this year.

Attending the virtual session were heads of the news agencies from 16 countries, including Japan's Kyodo News Agency, Xinhua News Agency of China, the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France Press (AFP).

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