MOSCOW, June 22 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow supports the idea of five-party talks on North Korea's nuclear problem to determine further steps in dealing with the current crisis, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
"We highly regard cooperation between the 'seven' [Russia, the United States, France, Britain, China, Japan and South Korea] in the UN Security Council," the ministry said in a statement.
"We are in favor of conducting five-party talks [between countries involved in six-nation talks on North Korea] to discuss further actions," the statement said.
The concept of five-party talks, which would exclude North Korea, has been gaining popularity after a summit between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama last week.
The South Korean leader has suggested that a new framework of dialogue may be needed to draw the North back to the negotiations.
The six-nation talks involving North and South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States, were launched in 2003 after Pyongyang withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
Under deals reached in 2007, the North began disabling a nuclear reactor and other facilities at Yongbyon under international supervision, in exchange for economic aid and political incentives, which included the deliveries of fuel oil to Pyongyang.
However, in December last year, a round of six-nation talks ended in deadlock over a U.S. demand that nuclear inspectors be allowed to take samples from North Korean facilities out of the country for further analysis.
The UN has recently imposed new sanctions on North Korea that forbid the import and export of nuclear material, missiles and all other weapons, with the exception of small arms. It has authorized the world's navies to enforce the ban. The sanctions came in response to a North Korean nuclear test on May 25.
On June 13, the reclusive communist state released a statement threatening "resolute military action" if the United States and its allies tried to isolate it, vowing to "weaponize" plutonium, and warning it would consider attempts to blockade it an "act of war."
The Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated on Monday that there was no alternative to a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but said Moscow viewed the latest threats from Pyongyang as an open challenge to the world community.