Russia-NKorea exercise shouldn't alter message: US
The United States said Thursday that Russia's planned joint military exercises with North Korea should not be done in a way that undercuts international concern about its nuclear program.
The State Department said in a written response to journalists' questions it was "aware from press reports that Russia and North Korea have announced their intention to hold joint naval exercises next year."
"Any engagement with the North Koreans should be conducted in a way that does not detract from the international communitys clear message of concern about the Norths weapons programs, and the necessity for Pyongyang to do what is necessary to return to the Six Party talks," the statement said.
The Six Party talks, which includes Russia, China, Japan, the United States and the two Koreas, is aimed at scrapping the North Korean nuclear arsenal. Pyongyang quit the talks in April 2009 and conducted its second nuclear test a month later.
The decision to stage the unprecedented joint search and rescue naval operations was reached during a late August visit to Pyongyang by Russia's Eastern Military District commander, Igor Muginov, Interfax reported.
"The idea is to hold the joint rescue maneuvers next year," Muginov said in reference to a Japanese press report suggesting that the exercises could begin later this year.
Muginov's visit to Pyongyang for talks with one of the Stalinist state's top army commanders came less than a week after strongman Kim Jong-Il held rare talks in Siberia with President Dmitry Medvedev that focused on trade and economic assistance.
North Korea rarely stages joint maneuvers with other nations and Russia's involvement is expected to be watched closely by the United States and South Korea, which conduct regular war games in the region.
© 2011 AFP