Russia's Lavrov warns risk of North Korea escalation 'very high'
MOSCOW, Russia – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday, August 11, cautioned that the risks of escalation of tensions between the United States and North Korea were "very high" following the recent war of words between Washington and Pyongyang.
"I believe the risks are very high, especially considering this rhetoric, when direct threats of using force are voiced," Lavrov said at a youth forum in the Vladimir region east of Moscow.
Lavrov did not refer to President Donald Trump's most recent remark that the US military is "locked and loaded" in the event of a misstep by North Korea, but said Moscow is "very alarmed" at Washington's rhetoric of preemptive military action.
He added that the United States, as a more powerful state than North Korea, should take the first step to cool tensions.
"When a fight has nearly broken out, the first step away from the dangerous threshold should be taken by the side that is stronger and smarter," Lavrov said.
Moscow has joined China to push an initiative that would see Pyongyang halt missile tests in return for the US ending military drills in the region.
"Kim Jong-Un freezes any nuclear tests or ballistic missile launches, while the US and South Korea freeze massive military drills that are constantly used by North Korea as a pretext for holding tests and proclamations about relying on their nuclear power," Lavrov said of the plan.
The "double freeze" plan would be a step toward the goal of "de-nuclearizing the Korean peninsula," he said.
The fiery rhetoric between US and North Korea of recent days, which follows two intercontinental ballistic missile tests by Pyongyang last month, even led South Korea to mull placing nuclear weapons on its own soil.
Pyongyang said this week it was readying a scheme to attack Guam, an island outpost of the US military in western Pacific.
"We're doing everything we can so that this 'what if' doesn't happen," Lavrov said when asked about the prospects of a conflict. – Rappler.com