Russia and the U.S. have “no cooperation” when it comes to addressing the North Korea crisis, according to the Kremlin.
“There is no cooperation so far,” Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters Saturday. “Only periodic exchanges of views.”
President Trump’s team has clashed with Russian and Chinese diplomats at the United Nations, where western diplomats have tried to lead a “peaceful pressure” campaign of economic sanctions that might induce North Korea to stop developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. They have had some success, but China and Russia want Trump to defuse the crisis by suspending military exercises in the region.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently blamed the U.S. for the crisis, which has seen North Korea test an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time and fire shorter-range rockets over Japan.
“Lavrov stressed that the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, caused by US military preparations in the region, is unacceptable, and underscored the importance of resolving disputes exclusively by diplomatic means,” the Russian Foreign Ministry announced following an October conversation between Lavrov and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Peskov’s acknowledgement of that disparity comes as Trump is embarking on a swing through Asia, focused in large part on building a consensus around the North Korea threat. The trip will include visits with U.S. allies as well as China; a meeting with Russian officials is also on the table.
“We may have a meeting with Putin,” Trump said Thursday on Fox News. “And, again — Putin is very important because they can help us with North Korea."
The trip comes days after a defector from the North Korean regime told lawmakers that dictator Kim Jong Un wants to obtain the ability to strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon in order to force the U.S. military to abandon South Korea.
“While Kim Jong Un has already long had the tools to destroy South Korea effectively, he also believes it is necessary to drive American forces out of the peninsula,” former North Korean ambassador Thae Yong Ho told the House Foreign Affairs Committee during a Wednesday hearing. “And this can be done, he believes, by being able to credibly threaten the continental United States with nuclear weapons.”
Western officials trying to broaden the coalition against the pariah state must balance the fact that China, Russia, and North Korea have a common goal — diminished U.S. military presence in the region — against their worry of a U.S. military buildup or potential war on the peninsula.
“I cannot imagine a condition under which the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear power,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in October during a trip to South Korea.