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US: Russia still supportive on NKorea denuclearization

January 13, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration said Tuesday that Russia remains committed to the U.S.-backed goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, despite its deepening ties with North Korea and invitation for leader Kim Jong Un to visit Moscow this year.

U.S. envoy on North Korea, Sung Kim, was speaking at a congressional hearing examining the threat posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, and its cyber capabilities after the destructive hacking attack on Sony Pictures.

Kim said North Korea has sought to reduce its economic dependence on its main ally China by pursuing stronger ties with Russia, which has responded positively by forgiving some debt and pursuing investment in North Korea’s railroad network.

Notwithstanding strains in U.S.-Russia relations over Ukraine, Kim said their alignment over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program remains strong. He said Russia has voiced continued support on six-nation, aid-for-disarmament talks and strong opposition to any atomic test by Pyongyang.

“I’m convinced that the Russians do remain committed to our shared goal of denuclearization,” Kim told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

North Korea has indicated willingness to rejoin the long-stalled talks, but has balked at U.S. demands it first take concrete steps to show it remains committed to the denuclearization goal.

Lawmakers quizzed administration officials at Tuesday’s hearing about the extent of North Korean-Russia ties, and the committee’s Republican chairman, Rep. Ed Royce, contended North Koreans involved in past hacking activities had trained both in China and Russia.

Russia offered some support to North Korea during the furor over the hacking of Sony Pictures, which produced “The Interview,” a comedy movie depicting the assassination of Kim Jong Un. Moscow said last month Washington failed to offer proof to back its claims of North Korean involvement.

The Kremlin has invited North Korea’s Kim to Moscow in May to attend festivities marking the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.

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