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Russia prods North Korea on nuclear programme, attack

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s foreign minister told his North Korean counterpart on Monday that Moscow was deeply concerned over Pyongyang’s uranium enrichment efforts and condemned an attack on a South Korean island, the ministry said.

Meeting with the reclusive North’s Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun in Moscow, Sergei Lavrov also urged Pyongyang to abide by a 2005 commitment to abandon its nuclear programme, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Lavrov “expressed deep concern in connection with information about the creation...of industrial uranium enrichment capabilities,” it said.

North Korea described details of its expanded nuclear programme late last month, saying it had thousands of centrifuges for uranium enrichment -- a second potential route to a nuclear bomb in addition to its plutonium programme.

The revelations came a week after a North Korean artillery attack killed four people on a South Korean island, the first time the North hit a civilian area on South Korean soil since the Korean war in the 1950s.

Lavrov told Pak that the attack “deserves condemnation,” the Russian ministry said.

Lavrov also suggested U.S.-South Korean military exercises have added to tension on the Korean Peninsula and stressed the need to resolve it without any further use of force.

Media were not invited to any part of meeting, and the North Korean foreign minister made no apparent public comments.

In an interview published on Friday by Interfax news agency, Pak said that the “hostile and confrontational policy” of the United States and South Korea justified “strengthening our defense potential with a focus on nuclear deterrent forces”.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests -- in 2006 and 2009 -- and is believed to have enough fissile material to make between six and 12 bombs.

Russia shares a short border with North Korea, which was a beneficiary of Soviet largesse during the Cold War, but now has far less influence on Pyongyang than China.

Editing by Thomas Grove