Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with former North Korean ambassador Kim Hyun-joon in Moscow in 2014. Photo: AFP / Ria Novosti / Michael Klimentyev

Pyongyang would never agree to any sort of nuclear deal with the US, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told Russian state-run media Wednesday, so long as the United States keeps applying pressure.

Korea JoongAng Daily says Ri also told Russia’s official Tass news agency that US President Donald Trump has “lit the fuse of war” with his “belligerent and insane statement” at the UN General Assembly, alluding to Trump’s address on September 19, threatening to “totally destroy North Korea.”

JoongAng says Ri also pointed out that Russian President Vladimir Putin “also acknowledged that the [North] Koreans will never give up nuclear weapons, even if they eat the grass, and stressed that the sanctions and the military hysteria won’t bring anything good.”

He added that North Korea sees “no prospect for improving the inter-Korean relations” as long as Seoul continues to resort to sanctions and a pressure campaign in line with the United States.

Opportunity for Putin?

In related news, Jonathan Pollack, a regional expert with the US-based Brookings Institution, said that Moscow could serve as a ‘wild card’ in solving the North Korean crisis.

Pollack, a member of the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings, noted that the current debate between the West and China over more sanctions to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions could provide Russia with a diplomatic opportunity. This, in turn, could lead to some innovative strategies in the escalating face off as North Korea’s relations with China cool.

“North Korea likes to gather enemies,” Pollack reportedly said in answer to a question at a forum in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Pointing to the North’s chilling relations with its largest trading partner, he said of Pyongyang: “They have begun to talk about China as an enemy.”

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