Russia "concerned" over mounting Korean tensions

By Louis Charbonneau

NEW YORK (BestGrowthStock) – Russia is seriously concerned that there could be a further escalation on the Korean peninsula, where North and South Korea are exchanging threats, Moscow’s envoy to the United Nations said on Saturday.

“We are seriously concerned about possible further escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula,” Vitaly Churkin told reporters at the Russian U.N. mission in New York, adding that the situation “directly affects the national security interests of the Russian Federation.”

South Korean had planned live-fire drills by its marines on December 18-21 off the small island of Yeonpyeong, prompting North Korea to threaten stronger retaliation than last month’s bombardment that killed four people.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted military officials on Saturday predicting bad weather would likely delay the drill.

Tensions on the peninsula remained high, with a U.S. trouble-shooter Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico calling the situation “a tinderbox” and urging the North to let the rival South conduct exercises.

Churkin confirmed that the U.N. Security Council would hold an emergency session on the Korean situation on Sunday at 11 a.m. (1600 GMT) at Russia’s request.

“We believe that the Security Council must send a restraining signal to the Republic of Korea and DPRK (North) and help launch diplomatic activity with a view to resolving all issues of dispute between the two Korean sides by political and diplomatic means,” he said.

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But Churkin complained that United States, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month, declined to convene a meeting on Saturday as he had requested in a letter to the U.S. mission.

“We regret that,” he said. “We believe that such a step by the president (of the council) is a departure from the practice existing in the council.”

Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said other members of the 15-nation council wanted more time so they could get instructions from home, which was why Washington decided to convene the meeting on Sunday morning.

Churkin said he hoped nothing would happen before the Sunday meeting that would cause “a further aggravation on the Korean peninsula.”

On Saturday, the North’s state media launched a blistering assault on the South’s pledge to cooperate with the United States and retaliate in the event of another bombardment. They suggested any such move could trigger a nuclear conflict.

“It is a suicidal move akin to digging one’s own grave for the South’s conservative forces to gang up with outside elements to try to harm compatriots,” the official publication of the North’s cabinet, Minju Joson, said in an editorial.

In Pyongyang, Richardson, on a private mission to cool tensions, told CNN in a telephone interview: “There’s enormous potential for miscalculation.”

He added: “I’m urging (on the North) extreme restraint … Let’s cool things down.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov by telephone that both Koreas should refrain from acts that would inflame an already “extremely precarious” situation,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on its website (www.mfa.gov.cn).

“The situation on the peninsula remains tense and there’s a risk of further deterioration and escalation,” it said.

China is the North’s main backer and its most steadfast defender on the Security Council. Recent attempts by the United States, Britain and China to press the council to rebuke Pyongyang over the deadly artillery shelling incident and its nuclear program were blocked by Beijing.

China, Russia, the United States, Britain and France are all permanent council members with veto powers.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

Russia "concerned" over mounting Korean tensions