A Russian diplomat has called on U.S. Donald Trump to engage diplomatically with North Korea to defuse tensions over the regime's nuclear program. The Trump administration has criticized Russia's relationship with North Korea and has threatened to strike the regime if it does not disarm.
On Dec. 14, Trump reportedly spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the phone to discuss the North Korean nuclear program. The next day, Trump signaled that he was displeased with the Russian government's role in the conflict.
"The primary point was to talk about North Korea, because we would love to have his help on North Korea," Trump said of his conversation with Putin, according to Politico. "China is helping. Russia is not helping. We'd like to have Russia's help -- very important."
On Dec. 18, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian state media that Putin's government wanted the Trump administration to speak directly with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
"It is a useful initiative," Ryabkov said of a potential United Nations Security Council appeal for the U.S. to restart direct communications with North Korea, according to Newsweek. "It is worth looking closely at it."
The Russian diplomat added that his country still wanted the U.S. to agree to cease conducting military exercises in the Korean Peninsula in exchange for the Kim regime curtailing its nuclear program.
"We would like to rely on [the possibility] that both in Washington and in Pyongyang this suggestion will be regarded seriously and they will not recite the well known elements of their respective positions with meeting demands from one another, but they will try to take a deep and broad look at the situation and move dialog beyond the dead end," Ryabkov concluded.
On Dec. 15, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that China and Russia's relationship with North Korea was harming international efforts to freeze the Kim regime's nuclear program.
"For countries who have not taken action, I urge you to consider your interest, your allegiances and your values in the face of this grave and global threat," Tillerson said before the UN Security Council.
"We particularly call on Russia and China to increase pressure, including going beyond full implementation of the Security Council resolutions," Tillerson continued. "Continuing to allow North Korean laborers to toil in slave-like conditions inside Russia in exchange for wages used to fund nuclear weapons programs calls into question Russia’s dedication as a partner for peace."
If the U.S. and North Korea engaged militarily, experts warn that thousands of South Koreans would be killed within hours and that the death toll in the Korean Peninsula would swiftly climb to the millions. There are also concerns that North Korea would launch nuclear missiles that could reach the majority of U.S. cities.
The Trump administration has taken an aggressive posture towards the Kim regime, repeatedly warning that the U.S. may attack if North Korea's nuclear program is not immediately shut down.
"We are far closer to actual conflict over North Korea than the American people realize," Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois told Vox. "Everything we're doing shows a military that, in my personal opinion, has turned the corner ... The president is likely to make this decision [to attack], and we need to be ready."