(RIA Novosti) - The foreign ministers of Russia and South Korea discussed by phone Wednesday North Korea's nuclear program, the Russian foreign ministry said.
"The sides discussed North Korea's nuclear program in light of Pyongyang's pledge to conduct a nuclear weapons test in the near future," the ministry said in a statement.
Russia's Sergei Lavrov and South Korea's Ban Ki-Moon confirmed their readiness to do everything possible to remove obstacles to a political resolution of the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula, reports Trend.
Ban, a career diplomat who served as South Korea's UN ambassador in 2001, is the favorite to succeed the current secretary general, Kofi Annan, when his second term ends later this year. Russia earlier said it supported an Asian candidate for the post.
"They [the ministers] stressed the inadmissibility of such a step [to conduct a nuclear test], which can only aggravate the situation and complicate the resumption of the six-nation talks," the statement said.
Russia's defense minister called on North Korea earlier Wednesday to exercise restraint in its plans to conduct a nuclear test, adding that the tests could damage the Russian environment.
"I am counting on the North Korean leadership to demonstrate restraint, caution and responsibility on this issue," Sergei Ivanov told journalists at Russia's Kant airbase in Kyrgyzstan. "[Nuclear] tests could inflict ecological damage on Russia."
North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003, and announced in February 2005 that it had acquired nuclear weapons. Some experts, however, have questioned the truth of North Korea's claim.
In early July, North Korea conducted test launches of ballistic missiles, including of a long-range Taepodong-2. While the tests were failures, many countries nevertheless interpreted them as an attempt to force the international community, especially the United States, to make concessions over the six-nation nuclear talks involving North and South Korea, Russia, China, Japan and the U.S.
The talks, aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its controversial nuclear program, opened in 2003, but stalled last November. Mediators proposed building a nuclear reactor for North Korea if it abandoned its nuclear program, but Pyongyang said it wanted the reactor first and would then give up its nuclear research.
At the latest round of talks in September, North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees, but later refused to return to the negotiating table until Washington lifted financial sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for its alleged involvement in counterfeiting and other illegal activities.