After talking with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the sidelines of an international summit in Vienna on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said North Korea is ready for direct talks and Russia is willing to help the two nations enter diplomatic discussions in order to decrease rising nuclear tensions and the threat of war.
"We spoke about the situation on the Korean peninsula," Lavrov, told TASS, a Russian news agency, about his talks with Tillerson. "Our position on this matter is unchanged. We are confident that it the vicious spiral of confrontation and provocations must be stopped."
"We know that North Korea wants first of all to speak with the United States about its security guarantees," he added. "We are ready to support it. We are ready to help promote such talks."
The State Department, however, seems unlikely to pursue the offer, and the department's spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, told Reuters that direct talks with North Korea were "not on the table until they are willing to denuclearize."
"It is something that Russia says it agrees with; it is something China has said it agrees with, and many other nations around the world as well," Nauert claimed, adding that North Korea was "not showing any interest in sitting down and having any kind of serious conversations when they continue to fire off ballistic missiles."
A spokesperson for Chinese Foreign Ministry emphasized the costs of war, and told Reuters: "We hope all relevant parties can maintain calm and restraint and take steps to alleviate tensions and not provoke each other.... The outbreak of war is not in any side's interest. The ones that will suffer the most are ordinary people."
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These comments come as peace advocates continue to say that a diplomatic settlement through direct talks is the only way to resolve the volatile situation, and as one U.S. lawmaker expressed worries this week that too few realize just "how close we are to this war."
"I think that the president is playing to a segment of the population and, I think, relying on the fact that most Americans don't realize how close we are to this war," said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran, in an interview with Vox published Thursday. "Look: I'm not someone who's going to avoid war at all costs. That's not me. But I want the American people to know what this will cost."
Duckworth—who lost both her legs when her Black Hawk helicopter was downed in Iraq—recalls how the Bush administration was "selling a lie" ahead of the invasion of Iraq, and warns that "we don't have the troops in the region, on the ground, to do what would need to be done to fully contain [North Korea's] nuclear capabilities," but "just ramping up—prepositioning troops, stocks, and logistics in a place where we could do it—could prompt the North Koreans to do something."
The United States continues to conduct joint military exercises with South Korean forces over the Korean peninsula, despite warnings from the North Koreans that the drills are perceived as provocations of war, as Common Dreams reported Wednesday.
"The large-scale nuclear war exercises conducted by the U.S. in succession are creating touch-and-go situation on the Korean peninsula, and series of violent war remarks coming from the U.S. high-level politicians amid such circumstances have made an outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula an established fact," a North Korean spokesperson said this week. "The remaining question now is: when will the war break out."