Russia made a secret offer to North Korea last year to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for a nuclear power plant, it has been revealed.
The deal was proposed last autumn as a potential solution to an ongoing diplomatic impasse between the US and North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile arsenal, The Washington Post reported.
Under the deal, the Russian government would operate the plant and transfer all byproducts and waste back to Russia.
This was supposed to reduce the risk that North Korea would use the power plant to build nuclear weapons, while providing the impoverished country a new energy source.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) in Pyongyang on May 31, 2018, but it is not known what was discussed by the men
Talks between the United States and North Korea have made progress with the announcement of a second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, planned for late February.
Victor Cha, a former White House staffer, told The Washington Post: ‘The Russians are very opportunistic when it comes to North Korea, and this is not the first time they’ve pursued an energy stake in Korea.’
Cha, who was last year considered as the nominee for US ambassador to South Korea, added: ‘Previous administrations have not welcomed these Russian overtures, but with Trump, you never know because he doesn’t adhere to traditional thinking.’
On Tuesday, a new U.S. intelligence assessment of global threats concluded that North Korea is ‘unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.’
The intelligence community has long had a more pessimistic outlook than Donald Trump and his administration on the nuclear talks.
The State Department, the White House, the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Russian Embassy in Washington declined to comment on Russia’s secret proposal.
Kim Jong-Un inspects the successful test-fire of the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 at an undisclosed location
It is unclear whether the offer is still under negotiation or if it has affected the discussions between Washington and Pyongyang.
Russia’s offer to North Korea, in October, came as negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang remained in deadlock over when the North should disclose an inventory of its nuclear program.
Since Trump met Kim for a high-level meeting in Singapore in June, the State Department has been meeting with North Korean officials to negotiate details of a deal that would see Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons and abandon its ballistic missile program.
The negotiations have yielded few visible results, however, and North Korean state media recently said that Pyongyang wouldn’t give up its nuclear weapons without some major concessions from the U.S.
Kim Jong-un shakes hands with Sergei Lavrov during a meeting in Pyongyang in May, 2018
North Korea is determined to have international sanctions lifted in exchange for getting rid of some of its nuclear weapons.
Last year, U.S. officials accused Russia of helping North Korea violate international sanctions.
Shortly afterwards, Russia announced it would begin deporting North Korean guest workers so they would stop sending money home to support the country’s nuclear weapons development.
Last week Trump defended himself against against complaints that his negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have yielded few steps toward denuclearization.
Kim Jong Un (right) is due to meet Donald Trump at a summit again in February to discuss North Korea’s steps toward denuclearization
He said ahead of a potential second summit that he saw ‘much potential’ for progress.
‘The Fake News Media loves saying ‘so little happened at my first summit with Kim Jong-un.’ Wrong!,’ he wrote in a pair of tweets, listing off accomplishments like sustained diplomatic relations with the isolated nation.
He also praised North Korea for pausing its nuclear and missile tests. He said: ‘No more Rockets or M’s being fired over Japan or anywhere else and, most importantly, no Nuclear Testing.
‘This is more than has ever been accomplished with North Korea, and the Fake News knows it. I expect another good meeting soon, much potential!.’