Russia's Lavrov Slams 'Dangerous' US Policy on North Korea

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) chats with North Korean counterpart Choe Son Hui at a welcome banquet in Pyongyang on Wednesday night. STR / KCNA VIA KNS/AFP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) chats with North Korean counterpart Choe Son Hui at a welcome banquet in Pyongyang on Wednesday night. STR / KCNA VIA KNS/AFP
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Russia's Lavrov Slams 'Dangerous' US Policy on North Korea

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) chats with North Korean counterpart Choe Son Hui at a welcome banquet in Pyongyang on Wednesday night. STR / KCNA VIA KNS/AFP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) chats with North Korean counterpart Choe Son Hui at a welcome banquet in Pyongyang on Wednesday night. STR / KCNA VIA KNS/AFP

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov slammed US policy towards North Korea as "dangerous" during a visit to Pyongyang Thursday, while touting the "new, strategic level" of relations between Moscow and the nuclear-armed state.

The veteran envoy's two-day visit is expected to lay groundwork for a trip to the country by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was invited by leader Kim Jong Un last month at a high-profile summit in Russia's far east, said AFP.

"Like our North Korean friends, we are seriously worried about the intensification of military activity of the United States, Japan and South Korea in the region and by Washington's policies... we oppose this unconstructive and dangerous line," Lavrov told journalists, according to Russian news agencies.

"We oppose this unconstructive and dangerous line," he said, adding that the United States was placing "strategic infrastructure, including nuclear elements", in the region without elaborating.

In the face of a record-breaking series of weapons tests by Pyongyang this year, Seoul has moved to strengthen its security relationship with traditional ally the United States while entering a trilateral defense arrangement that also includes Japan.

Seoul and Washington have staged joint military exercises with advanced stealth jets and US strategic assets, while an American nuclear-armed submarine in July made a South Korean port call for the first time in decades.

A B-52 bomber capable of carrying a nuclear payload currently sits at Cheongju airport, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Seoul, marking the first time one has landed in the country since at least 2000.

Local media reports this week said the bomber would take part in a joint aerial drill near the Korean peninsula on Sunday that would involve South Korea, the United States and Japan.

But North Korea's relationship with Russia has also been tightening, Lavrov said Thursday.

"After the landmark summit... we can say confidently that relations have reached a qualitatively new, strategic level," Lavrov reportedly told North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui at a meeting.

Moscow is also keen to assist North Korea with its energy needs, a constant source of struggle for heavily sanctioned Pyongyang, he told Russian outlets.

"There is geological exploration, there are also plans for the supply of energy resources and other goods that our friends from the DPRK need," Lavrov said, using the acronym for North Korea's official name.

Both energy issues would be discussed at a joint meeting slated for November, he added.

Lavrov, who laid wreaths at monuments to former North Korean leaders Kim Sung Il and Kim Jong Il in the morning, arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday night after accompanying Putin on a trip to Beijing.

At a welcome dinner, he praised Pyongyang’s support for Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine.

"We highly value your principled, unambiguous support for Russia's actions in connection with the special military operation in Ukraine," Lavrov was quoted as saying by Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.

Weapons transfers
Kim last month traveled to Russia aboard a specially built bullet-proof train for a face-to-face meeting with Putin, declaring bilateral ties with Moscow his country's "number one priority".

The two leaders met at Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome, roughly 8,000 kilometers from Moscow, a location seen as symbolic given North Korea's space aspirations.

The September summit fanned Western fears Pyongyang might provide Moscow with weapons for its drawn-out war in Ukraine.

On Friday, the United States said arms shipments were already under way, with North Korea delivering more than 1,000 containers of military equipment and munitions to Russia in recent weeks.

According to a graphic provided by the White House, a load of containers was shipped by sea from North Korea to Russia between September 1 and October 1.

They were then delivered by rail to an ammunition depot about 290 kilometers from the Ukrainian border.

Pyongyang was seeking a range of military assistance in return, including advanced technologies, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Moscow this week denounced the allegations, insisting Washington had no proof that weapons were being shipped.



Stockholm Accuses Iran of Using Criminals in Sweden to Target Israel

A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
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Stockholm Accuses Iran of Using Criminals in Sweden to Target Israel

A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo

Sweden's domestic security agency on Thursday accused Iran of using established criminal networks in Sweden as a proxy to target Israeli or Jewish interests in the Scandinavian country.
The accusations were raised at a news conference by Daniel Stenling, the head of the SAPO agency's counterespionage unit, following a series of events earlier this year.
In late January, the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm was sealed off after what was then described as “a dangerous object” was found on the grounds of the diplomatic mission in an eastern Stockholm neighborhood. Swedish media said the object was a hand grenade.
The embassy was not evacuated and the object was eventually destroyed. No arrests were made and authorities did not say what was found. On May 17, gunshots were heard near the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm and the area was cordoned off. No one was arrested.
According to The Associated Press, Stenling said, without offering specifics or evidence to back up his assertion, that the agency "can establish that criminal networks in Sweden are used as a proxy by Iran.”
“It is very much about planning and attempts to carry out attacks against Israeli and Jewish interests, goals and activities in Sweden," he said and added that the agency sees "connections between criminal individuals in the criminal networks and individuals who are connected to the Iranian security services.”
Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer and Hampus Nygårds, deputy head of the Swedish police's National Operations Department, were also at the online news conference with Stenling.
“We see this connection between the Iranian intelligence services, the security services and precisely criminals in the criminal networks in Sweden," Stenling said. “We see that connection and it also means that we need to work much more internationally to get to the crimes and be able to prevent them.”
Stenling and the others made no mention of the recent incidents connected to the Israel Embassy and stopped short of naming any criminal groups or suspects.
Sweden has grappled with gang violence for years and criminal gangs often recruit teenagers in socially disadvantaged immigrant neighborhoods to carry out hits.
By May 15, police have recorded 85 shootings so far this year, including 12 fatal shootings. Last year, 53 people were killed and 109 were wounded in a total of 363 shootings.