U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have “agreed to continue to work toward a diplomatic solution to achieve a denuclearized Korean peninsula,” the U.S. State Department said Wednesday.
A U.S. statement said the two spoke by phone Tuesday to discuss concerns related to North Korea’s “destabilizing nuclear program and emphasized that neither the United States nor Russia accepts” Pyongyang as a nuclear power.
A day earlier, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that Lavrov told his American counterpart that “Washington’s aggressive rhetoric” has heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula. Russia also said Lavrov called the U.S. rhetoric unacceptable.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it had imposed sanctions on two North Korean officials for their role in Pyongyang’s ballistic missile program.
The move followed the U.N. Security Council’s unanimous approval of a resolution Friday limiting the amount of gasoline and diesel North Korea can import and tightening inspections of ships suspected of illegally carrying banned items to or from North Korea.
North Korea has significantly stepped up its nuclear and missile programs in 2017, launching a newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) called a Hwasong-15 last month. North Korea claims the missile is capable of delivering nuclear warheads anywhere in the continental United States. The test was Pyongyang’s third ICMB test this year and its 20th ballistic missile launch of this year.
Earlier in the year, U.S. President Donald Trump referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man,” fueling tensions between the two countries. The U.S. has increased sanctions on North Korea following the missile tests.