Russian official predicts 'catastrophic' events
AFP via Sydney Morning Herald
April 24, 2003
A top Russian Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying yesterday in
Tokyo that a "catastrophic" development of events in the US-North Korean
nuclear standoff was imminent and could occur within the next day.
"It is probable that, as early as tomorrow, there will be a catastrophic
development of events," Itar-Tass quoted Deputy Foreign Minister
Alexander Losyukov as saying.
He added that the standoff had "reached an extreme stage" but did not
give a more detailed explanation about his warning.
Losyukov holds the Asian affairs brief in the ministry.
His comments came as US Asia envoy James Kelly had a first round of
low-key nuclear talks in Beijing with "axis of evil" foe North Korea.
Losyukov said that Russia would welcome progress in Kelly's negotiations
with Li Gun, the North Korean Foreign Ministry's deputy director for US
affairs and a former senior member of his country's delegation to the
"If the danger is defused, we would only welcome this," Losyukov said.
China was represented by Fu Ying, director of the Foreign Ministry's
department of Asian affairs, but Russia - which had sought to play a role
in mediating the Washington-Pyongyang standoff - was excluded.
Losyukov said Russia did not feel snubbed by the decision.
Russia "does not feel left out or hurt," said Losyukov, whose comments
came after a meeting with top Japanese Foreign Ministry officials.
Moscow had pushed for direct talks between North Korea and the United
States and argued against Washington's demands for a multilateral format
for such negotiations.
But Beijing managed to broker a compromise deal that would see the two
sides hold talks with China as an active third party.
Those may be later joined by South Korea and Japan -- but Russia's own
role in the negotiations seems uncertain.
President Vladimir Putin has enjoyed privileged relations with North
Korean leader Kim Jong-il. He has met the reclusive Stalinist three times
over the past two years and Moscow diplomats have insisted that they were
still hard at work in trying to resolve the nuclear standoff.
Moscow "is doing all it can in the diplomatic arena," Losyukov was quoted
as saying. He gave no further details.