Pyongyang's nuclear program and a return to the negotiating table are on the agenda, as Russia's foreign minister meets his South Korean counterpart.
The meeting in Moscow is being held behind closed doors. However, North Korea’s nuclear program is, undoubtedly, going to dominate.
In 2009, Pyongyang unilaterally left the six-party talks, which also involved South Korea, Russia, China, the US and Japan. The North expelled international nuclear experts and proceeded with its nuclear tests.
This move caused a wave of condemnation around the world, including from Russia, which shares a border with North Korea.
The North’s recent attack on a South Korean island has only added to the tension on the Korean Peninsula. Four people were killed and at least 18 injured. Pyongyang claimed it was in response to aggression from its southern neighbor.
Despite all hopes for calm, numerous factors involved make the situation too complex. The strong alliance between South Korea and the United States is among those factors. The two nations hold regular military drills in the region and that makes Pyongyang feel intimidated. One such exercise was held right after the shootout between the North and South.
Georgy Toloraya, the director of Korean Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that the decision by the United States and South Korea to hold military games at this particular moment is “very regrettable.”
“It’s playing with fire… These war games are very dangerous because North Koreans can really decide that this is an attack, and they can retaliate,” he explained.
Another factor is the new government in Seoul, which is calling for even closer ties with Washington, which may result in more trouble in the region.
Aleksandr Vorontsov from the Institute of Oriental Studies says that though there is only a small chance that the six-party talks could resume any time soon, it is quite important that they do.