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‘Must be resolved peacefully’: Putin, Merkel talk North Korea crisis ahead of UNSC sanctions vote

The leaders of Russia and Germany discussed the upcoming vote at the UN Security Council on new sanctions against North Korea. They agreed that the issue should be resolved peacefully and that Pyongyang should stop its provocations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the North Korean crisis on Monday in a telephone call.

“There was agreement that the conflict about North Korea's nuclear armament must be resolved peacefully,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

He added that Merkel expressed support for tougher UN sanctions against North Korea, according to Reuters.

The Kremlin said that both nations agreed that North Korea was acting provocatively by ignoring the resolutions of the UN Security Council and continuing nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

“Such steps violate the principles of global non-proliferation and pose a serious threat to regional peace and security,” the Russian statement said.

The discussion comes hours before the UNSC is expected to vote on a new round of economic sanctions against North Korea, punishing it for the latest nuclear test on September 3.

The US which authored the latest resolution, appears to have scaled back some of its demands in a version of the draft seen by the media Monday. Oil exports will not be banned but restricted to the previous quantities and North Korean workers will still be allowed to work abroad. A plan to freeze Kim Jong-un’s assets has now been abandoned.

Multiple reports speculated that the measures were toned down to bring Russia and China onboard, so as to secure a unanimous vote. Moscow has publicly opposed the oil ban and both countries employ North Korean workers, paying Pyongyang with foreign currency.

Russia and China are pushing for a diplomatic solution to the Korean crisis – the so-called double freeze initiative that would see North Korea suspend its missile and nuclear tests in exchange for South Korea and the US dropping their joint military exercises. The US has rejected the proposal, asserting that its own exercises are legal, unlike Pyongyang’s, which are subject to existing international sanctions.

It is not clear how open North Korea is to any solution. It earlier threatened the US, saying it would face “greatest pain and suffering,” if the latest sanctions resolution comes to pass.