Night Watch

North Korea-Russia: In a press conference reviewing diplomatic results in 2013, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented on the Korean situation.

"Certainly, emergence of new military world powers is unacceptable for us. This is a common position of Russia, the People's Republic of China and other participants in six-party talks," Lavrov told the news conference.

"As for six-party talks, we are convinced that there is no alternative to this process. The goals remain unchanged - to make Korean Peninsula nuclear free. The basis for talks also did not change. This is a statement that six world powers had adopted in September 2005," the minister noted.

He said that the North Korean leadership is sending signals that the country is prepared to resume nuclear talks, but other countries expect concrete unilateral actions from Pyongyang before the start of talks that confirm serious intentions. In the view of Lavrov, the negotiators should seek for consensus, not caring about "someone losing face or saving face."

Comment: Lavrov did not elaborate about North Korean signals, but North Korea has had private bilateral contacts with Russia since its formation. The Kims have been fond of trying to leverage their ties to Russia to blunt Chinese influence.

The key point is that North Korea is willing to participate in talks without preconditions, which sounds eminently reasonable. However, the North has failed to deliver on past promises that remain outstanding. Thus the North's seemingly innocent willingness to start with a clean negotiating slate would in fact be a diplomatic victory, if the other states accepted the North's hubris.

The Russians can support the North's position because they are bit players in Korea and stand to lose nothing by backing Pyongyang and stand to gain much at no cost to themselves by diplomatically challenging the Allies.

Before opening new talks, the US and the Allies want the North to be held accountable for failing to keep past promises made in prior talks, such as freezing its nuclear program. The Russians are playing the spoiler, as they are in the Syrian peace talks and the Iranian nuclear agreement.

Iran: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted Wednesday that the Obama administration has mischaracterized concessions supposedly made by Iran. He said, simply and clearly, "we did not agree to dismantle anything."

Night Watch

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