Question: I don’t want to leave without asking you a question about North Korea. Just before the G20, Russia built an alliance, an agreement with the Chinese over your position on North Korea. Why would you not consider North Korea a threat when they fired a missile which came close to Russian territory?
S.Lavrov: I cannot say that we are not considering a threat what is going on on the Korean Peninsula, because what North Korea is doing is a gross violation of the Security Council resolutions. These not so noble attempts to present us as appeasing North Koreans, as acquiescing with what they have been doing. I don’t know the purpose of those, maybe to get some political points, to score some political points. Our position is very straight-forward. We supported consistently all resolutions of the Security Council which were designed to stop the prohibited nuclear and missile programs of North Korea. And it was agreed from the very beginning that all these sanctions would be targeted to make it impossible to continue with these programs. The people who have been engaged in these programs, who are engaged in these programs, the people who provide finances for these programs, you know, the targets of these sanctions, must be related, must be linked to what has been prohibited by the Security Council.
When proposals have been put on the table, basically designed to completely suffocate North Korean economy, prohibiting any imports from North Korea, any exports into North Korea, any transport links with North Korea, prohibiting any contacts with anybody of any importance in the leadership of North Korea – we cannot, obviously, support this kind of approach, because it contradicts the basic premise. And the basic premise being is that we have to stop nuclear and missile programs, but we cannot do this at the expense of hundreds and thousands of lives of North Koreans.
Question: And your basic premise being that you don’t believe in regime change? Just a simple Russian policy.
S.Lavrov: We don’t believe in regime change anywhere. I hear very enthusiastic voices in the United States, including in some parts of this administration, that the patience has been over, and they must do something because the threat is growing and growing, and an intercontinental ballistic missile was launched.
By the way, on that very day when the presidents met in Hamburg our military provided to the Pentagon our objective data, that we received from our radars located just on the border with North Korea. And according to that data, it is not an intercontinental missile, but the Americans say that they have their own calculations. We suggest just to sit down without any politization to professionally look and exchange information. But a month ago, I think, a month and a half maybe, Secretary of Defense J.Mattis, answering the question, bluntly stated that the use of force against North Korean regime would mean a disaster, a humanitarian disaster in the region. And our American colleagues accept in private discussion that it speaks about hundreds of thousands probably, not just in North Korea but in South Korea and the neighboring countries. And I believe that those who keep those scenarios in their minds are not responsible as politicians.
Therefore, not instead, but parallel with the continued pressure on North Korea, Russia and China proposed a parallel political track. The idea is to ensure a double freeze – North Korea suspends all launches and all tests, and in response, the US and South Korea do not cancel but reduce the scale of their war games in that region, which we believe could help diffuse the situation and allow for some professional discussions to build up confidence, starting by very simple things, such as adopting a statement that no one is going to attack each other, that the security of each of the participants of this process would be mutually guaranteed, and so on and so forth. And then building upon these universal principles, trying to agree on some details which would translate these guarantees to all participants in practice. It will take time, but we believe that it’s the only way to save us from a disaster which is looming.