Russia is “extremely concerned’’ by U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments questioning the Iran nuclear deal and suspects that Washington itself may have violated a landmark arms control treaty, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Lavrov said at the UN in New York and published by his ministry on Wednesday, illustrate how deeply Moscow and Washington are at odds over an array of issues and suggest any attempts to improve already battered relations face an uphill struggle.
Addressing the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump said Iran’s 2015 pact with six world powers to curb its nuclear programme in return for loosening economic sanctions was “an embarrassment to the U.S.”.
Washington could not abide by an agreement “if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear programme,” Trump said.
Lavrov, whose country is a signatory to the deal, said Russia strongly disagreed with that stance.
He said “it is extremely worrying; we will defend this document, this consensus, which was met with relief by the entire international community and genuinely strengthened both regional and international security.”
Trump’s threat in the same UN appearance to “totally destroy” North Korea if it had to defend itself or it allies also went down badly with Russia.
Russia which shares a border with North Korea, believes negotiations and diplomacy are the only way to resolve a crisis over Pyongyang’s missile programme.
“`If you simply condemn and threaten, then we’re going to antagonise countries over whom we want to exert influence,” said Lavrov, referring to Trump’s comments.
He saved some of his harshest criticism, however, for what he said was a possible violation by the U.S. of a landmark 1987 arms control treaty which bans Russian and American intermediate-range missiles on land.
A senior Trump administration official accused Russia earlier this year of violating the same pact — the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty — something Moscow denied.
But Lavrov said it looked like it was Washington, which is in the midst of a one trillion dollars, 30-year modernisation of its aging ballistic missile submarines, bombers and land-based missiles, that was in breach of the same treaty.
“We have suspicions on at least three fronts that the Americans are creating weapons systems which violate or could violate the treaty obligations,” said Lavrov, who said Moscow had relayed its concerns to the U.S.
Lavrov has met U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, twice in New York this week.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech to the UN, where he warned he would “totally destroy” North Korea if threatened, reinforced the need for Pyongyang to realise it must give up its nuclear weapons, South Korea said on Wednesday.
In a hard-edged speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a “rocket man” for his repeated ballistic missile tests.
“We view the speech as portraying a firm and specific stance on the key issues regarding keeping peace and safety that the international community and the UN are faced with,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It clearly showed how seriously the U.S. government views North Korea’s nuclear programme as the president spent an unusual amount of time discussing the issue,” the presidential Blue House’s statement said.
Trump’s speech “reaffirmed that North Korea should be made to realise denuclearisation is the only way to the future through utmost sanctions and pressure”, it said.
Moon came to power in May on a platform of more engagement with North Korea.
Since Pyongyang’s sixth and largest nuclear test earlier on Sept. 3, however, Moon has said the time is not right for dialogue.
He and Trump plan to meet in New York early on Wednesday U.S. time, Moon’s office said.
Trump’s most direct military threat to attack North Korea was his latest expression of concern about Pyongyang’s repeated weapons tests.
“The U.S. has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump told the 193-member world body.
“Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.”
U.S. ally Japan, which Pyongyang often threatens to destroy, has taken a consistently hard line on North Korea, pushing for increased sanctions and pressure.
“We greatly appreciate President Trump’s approach to changing North Korea’s policy stance, denuclearising the country and calling on the international community, including China and Russia, for their cooperation toward strengthening pressure on North Korea,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, said.
Suga also welcomed Trump’s reference to a Japanese girl who was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1977.
The plight of abductees is a key issue for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has pledged to rescue them while in office, and an emotive one for the Japanese public.
North Korea admitted in 2002 it had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train spies.
Five of them returned to Japan but Tokyo suspects that hundreds more may have been taken.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday that the international community needed to unite to enforce sanctions and apply pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile programmes.
“Now is not the time for dialogue. Now is the time to apply pressure,” Abe told a gathering of investors at the New York Stock Exchange.