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Russia, China activate Korean talks ahead of G20

China's President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (The Kremlin/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia says it has invited South Korea to join in developing a “new Russian-Chinese initiative” to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula amid a flurry of diplomacy on the topic ahead of next week’s Group of 20 (G20) summit in Japan.

“We have already made all the key countries aware of the project, including our South Korean colleagues,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on June 17 following a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha, in Moscow.

“We have invited them [South Korea] to take part in our joint work on these ideas to narrow the positions of participants, taking into account those initiatives that Seoul put forth some time ago,” Lavrov added.

Officials in Russia and China have been working on a new initiative to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for a reduction in the U.S. military presence in South Korea.

U.S. officials have dismissed the plan.

North Korea has carried out six nuclear tests and claims to have developed a nuclear bomb small enough to go on a long-range missile.

It also has a ballistic missile that experts believe could reach the U.S. mainland.

U.S. President Donald Trump has made reaching an agreement with North Korea over its nuclear and missile program a cornerstone of his foreign policy.

However, Washington and Pyongyang have made little progress with Trump up for reelection in less than 18 months.

Later this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to travel to Pyongyang for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It will be the first trip by a Chinese leader to North Korea in 14 years.

China is North Korea’s only major ally.

Analysts say Xi want to use his influence over Kim as a bargaining chip in his trade talks with Trump at the G20 summit on June 28-29 in Osaka.

Washington has imposed stiff tariffs on Chinese goods amid a dispute over trade, leading to a slowdown in Asia’s largest economy.