North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (right) meeting Valentina Ivanovna Matvienko (left), chairwoman of the Russian Federation Council, at the office building of the WPK Central Committee in Pyongyang on September 8, 2018. Photo: AFP/STR/KCNA Via KNS

Russia, China and North Korea have agreed on the need for five-way negotiations, which include the United States and South Korea, to end tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Reuters and Iranian Press TV, quoting Russian Foreign Ministry sources, have reported.

The Russian statement said the deputy foreign ministers of Russia, China and North Korea, who met in Moscow, expressed support for such talks aimed at normalizing relations between the two Koreas and their neighbors.

Seoul may be on the verge of lifting sanctions on the North, which were imposed in 2010 after a deadly attack on a South Korean warship that killed 45 of its sailors. At the time, South Korea closed down all cross-border cooperation except for a joint factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

But even the factories there were closed by South Korea in 2016 after North Korea conducted a nuclear test and launched a long-range missile.

The Moscow meeting came as relations between the United States and China – and the United States and Russia – were deteriorating.

But the likely lifting of South Korean sanctions would be mostly symbolic as it is virtually impossible for South Korea to resume joint economic projects with the North as long as US sanctions are in place.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha has called on Washington officially to declare an end to the Korean War, a key demand by Pyongyang, in exchange for a verified closure of North Korean weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said during his September 29 address to the United Nations General Assembly that continued sanctions against the North “are just deepening the rift of mistrust in the United States.”

Seen in that perspective, the United States is becoming the odd man out in the search for peace on the Korean Peninsula – and the initiative will be in the hands of the Chinese and the Russians with the two Koreas on their side.

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