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Russia's Lavrov Sees No Quick North Korea Solution

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo)
SEOUL (Reuters) -- There is no sign of a quick solution to the North Korean crisis, Russia's foreign minister has said during a visit to Pyongyang, where he is expected to urge the communist state not to restart its nuclear facility.

Pyongyang kicked out UN nuclear inspectors and threatened to resume operations at a nuclear facility that makes bomb-grade plutonium last week after the UN Security Council condemned the North for launching a long-range rocket on April 5.

"We do not foresee any breakthroughs," Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Sergei Lavrov as saying after talks with North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun in Pyongyang.

"This is a complicated process and we must not give in to emotions. We need to concentrate on the base we already have."

Lavrov, who is scheduled to visit Seoul on April 24, decided to fly to Pyongyang after the North also threatened to quit six-country nuclear disarmament talks in anger over UN Security Council censure for its rocket launch.

Russia and China, veto-wielding council members, prevented the adoption of new sanctions over the launch, widely seen as a long-range missile test that violated UN resolutions, but signed on to the call for tough implementation of past measures.

Frustration with North Korea has been growing after Pyongyang said it was quitting the six-party talks and nullifying agreements reached with South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia, and China since the negotiations began in 2003.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on April 22 that Washington wanted the six-party talks to resume and urged the world not to "give in" to the North's "unpredictable behavior."

Lavrov said he would try to press the North to return to the talks and expected Pyongyang to do so, Interfax news agency said on April 22.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said it would be some time before the North could restart its Yongbyon nuclear plant, about 100 kilometers north of Pyongyang.

"That will be squarely against all the pledges made by the North for denuclearization made through the six-way talks and it will reinforce the need to rigorously enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1718," Yu told a briefing on April 23.

That resolution called for arms and financial sanctions against the North for a nuclear test and missile exercise in 2006. The Security Council censure this month called for punishment under that resolution.

Factory Dispute

In rare talks with Seoul, North Korea on April 21 refused to discuss the fate of a South Korean worker it had been holding for almost a month for allegedly insulting its political system, and demanded higher wages and rent from firms that operate factories in an industrial enclave in its territory.

The North, furious after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak cut off unconditional aid a year ago, has disrupted work at the Kaesong factory park to pressure Seoul to drop its tough line.

The North could shut down the factory, said Cho Myung-chul, a former economist in the North who defected to the South about 15 years ago and who is now with the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy in Seoul.

"North Korea is not the type of country that would sacrifice its political interests for economic interests," he said.