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Russian deputy foreign minister has set off for North Korea to discuss its recent nuclear test with the country's leadership
A Russian deputy foreign minister has set off for North Korea to discuss its recent nuclear test with the country's leadership, the ministry's official spokesman said Friday. Alexander Alekseyev heads the Russian delegation at the six-nation talks on the North Korean nuclear problem. North Korea claimed Monday it successfully conducted its first nuclear weapons test, drawing a chorus of international condemnation, even from traditional allies such as China. Several countries, led by Japan and the United States, have called for tough UN sanctions against the impoverished Communist state. However, Russia voiced its hopes the six-nation talks on the North Korean nuclear problem will be resumed as soon as possible, and announced that it delivered Wednesday 12,800 tons of grain to North Korea as part of the UN World Food Program. "We will make every effort to prevent the situation from degenerating into the worst, confrontational scenario," Alexeyev said. "Notwithstanding the urgency of the situation, we call on all sides to exercise forbearance and calm." President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that diplomacy should be the only way for the international community to dissuade North Korea from further nuclear tests. North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States have been engaged in talks on the nuclear issue since 2003, discussing aid and security guarantees for the secretive regime in exchange for a renunciation of its nuclear program. The talks stalled last November over Pyongyang's demands that the U.S. lift sanctions imposed on it for its alleged involvement in counterfeiting and other illegal activities. North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003, and in February 2005 announced it had acquired nuclear weapons. Negotiators have proposed aid and security guarantees for the Pyonyang regime in exchange for a renunciation of its nuclear program.
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