Russia and China have called for a simultaneous freeze on North Korean nuclear and missile tests and military exercises by the United States and South Korea.
The positions were announced in a joint document issued after a meeting between leaders Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping in the Russian capital of Moscow on Tuesday, in which they also condemned Pyongyang’s latest missile test as “unacceptable” and urged against “any statements or actions that could lead to an increase in tensions”.
“The two sides propose that the DPRK (North Korea) as a voluntary political decision declares a moratorium on testing nuclear explosive devices and ballistic rocket launches, and the US and South Korea refrain from carrying out large-scale joint exercises,” the two countries’ foreign ministries said in a joint statement.
“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,” the statement added.
In comments carried by the state news agency TASS, Putin was also quoted as saying: “Our mutual priorities include a comprehensive resolution of the problems of the Korean Peninsula in order to ensure lasting peace and stability in northeastern Asia.”
Russia and China have the closest diplomatic relations with the insular nation of North Korea.
The joint statement followed an announcement by North Korea that it had test-fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile.
The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the launch, warning that it “constitutes a dangerous escalation of the situation.”
The test also sparked a Twitter outburst from US President Donald Trump, who urged China, North Korea’s closest ally, to act to “end this nonsense once and for all”.
Beijing has previously called for a “dual-track” approach of “suspension for suspension” that would see North Korea and the US ease up on tensions, and now Moscow has added its weight to the plan.
The two countries urged “the confronting parties” involved to sit down for talks, to agree on principles that include a refusal to use force and a pledge to make the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.
At the same time, their document emphasised that the North’s “sensible concerns” must be respected and urged other nations to create a “peaceful atmosphere of mutual trust” to help to launch the talks.
In an apparent hint at the US, Beijing and Moscow spoke against the “non-regional powers’ military presence in Northeast Asia and its buildup under the pretext of countering North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes”.
They specifically opposed US missile defence systems in the region, saying their deployment “seriously damages strategic security interests of regional powers, including Russia and China” and hinders peace and stability.
Xi’s visit to Russia also comes amid a flare-up of tensions between China and the US over an American destroyer sailing within the territorial waters of a Chinese-claimed island in the South China Sea.
During their meeting, Putin hailed Xi as a “big friend” and presented him with Russia’s highest award for his efforts to strengthen ties.
Xi said “the Russian-Chinese relations are now the best ever”.
Putin and Xi are scheduled to attend the Group of 20 summit in Germany later this week. Putin and Trump are to hold their first meeting there.