October 15, 2017 / 9:26 AM / 2 months ago

North Korea not ready to meet with South Korea in Russia: agencies

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Politicians from North and South Korea will not hold direct talks in Russia on Monday about Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program despite attending the same event and being urged to do so by Moscow, Russian news agencies said on Sunday.

Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, is due to discuss the missile crisis in separate talks with a deputy head of North Korea’s legislature and the head of South Korea’s parliament on the sidelines of a congress of parliamentarians in St Petersburg on Monday.

Moscow has called on the two countries to use the opportunity to have their own direct talks to try to narrow their differences.

But the RIA news agency on Sunday cited Piotr Tolstoi, the deputy speaker of the Russian lower house of parliament, and an unnamed member of North Korea’s delegation as saying there would not be any direct talks.

The unnamed North Korean delegate was quoted as saying that U.S. pressure on Pyongyang and U.S. and South Korean military exercises meant preconditions for such talks had not been met.

Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the upper house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said Moscow would try again on Monday to encourage the two delegations to hold face-to-face talks despite the lack of progress.

Russian news agencies quoted him as saying that the North Korean delegation had so far declined to hold such talks, while the South Korean delegation had said it was ready for such a meeting.

“We will definitely not try to coerce or talk somebody into anything,” the Interfax news agency cited Kosachyov as saying.

“(But) it will be pity, both on the human and political level, if another opportunity to de-escalate tensions in relations between North Korea and South Korea is missed.”

North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile launches have stirred global tensions and prompted several rounds of international sanctions at the U.N. Security Council.

A de-escalation plan, backed by Russia and China, would see North Korea suspend its ballistic missile program and the United States and South Korea simultaneously call a moratorium on large-scale missile exercises, both moves aimed at paving the way for multilateral talks.

Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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