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US And Russia Find Common Ground In North Korea

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The U.S. and Russia may not share many foreign policy positions, but they do agree North Korea cannot be accepted as a nuclear power. 

The agreement came during a Dec. 26 phone call between U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"The two discussed concerns related to the DPRK's destabilizing nuclear program and emphasized that neither the United States nor Russia accepts the DPRK as a nuclear power," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert in a statement, according to Reuters. DPRK refers to North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. 

The conversation between Tillerson and Lavrov came after their respective countries announced sanctions against North Korea in addition to sanctions recently approved by the United Nations. 

During the call, Lavrov reportedly extended an offer for Russia to mediate talks between the U.S. and North Korea. A statement from Russia's foreign ministry states Lavrov criticized "Washington's aggressive rhetoric" and heightened military presence in the region for raising tension with North Korea, according to Reuters. 

Tillerson's belief in a diplomatic solution has been at odds with U.S. President Donald Trump's aggressive stance towards North Korea. Trump's responses to North Korean missile tests have ranged from ominous warnings to outright hostile threats. 

While Tillerson and Lavrov agree North Korea cannot be recognized as a nuclear power, some believe the opportunity to prevent a nuclear North Korea has already passed. 

"We've seen no indication in recent years that they are interested in denuclearization," said Mira Rapp-Hooper, a North Korea expert, according to The Washington Post. "So it's difficult to rationalize how we are still so fixated on it." 

Experts in the field of nuclear nonproliferation agree it is unlikely North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will give up his nuclear weapons. 

"It's a fantasy that they're going to willingly give up their nuclear programs so long as Kim is in power," said nonproliferation specialist Vipin Narang, according to The Washington Post. "He saw the fate of Saddam [Hussein, former Iraqi leader] and [former Libyan leader Moammar] Gadhafi -- why would he give up his nuclear weapons?"

Recent sanctions imposed by the U.N. seek to reign in North Korea by limiting its access to oil and targeting an alleged slave labor market, according to NPR. North Korea called the sanctions an act of war and compared them to a complete economic blockade of the country.

Russia voted in favor of the sanctions but criticized the U.S. for focusing on sanctions instead of talks.  

Sources: Reuters, The Washington Post, NPR / Featured Image: Stefan Krasowski/Flickr / Embedded Images: Bjorn Christian Torrissen via Wikimedia Commons, Stefan Krasowski/Flickr

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