Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia: U.S. Pressure Is Unhelpful

As concern rose Monday over North Korea's announcement that it had resumed its nuclear weapons program, a top Russian diplomat warned the United States that putting the country under pressure could aggravate the tensions.

"It is counterproductive and dangerous to blackmail North Korea, with its grave economic position," Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov was quoted as saying in an interview with the newspaper Vremya Novostei.

Nuclear Power Minister Alexander Rumyantsev on Monday confirmed that North Korea had started relaunching its nuclear program and expressed regret over the decision, Itar-Tass reported.

"I know that North Korea has begun the action to unfurl its nuclear programs," Rumyantsev was quoted as saying, and said that the UN nuclear watchdog "has not given a proper assessment to this fact as yet."

Rumyantsev, speaking to Russian reporters during a trip to Iran, said he did not have details about North Korea's move, the report said.

Mamedov said in the interview that the Kremlin shares the United States' concerns about North Korea's nuclear weapons program. "The absence of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula is in our common interest," he said.

But he criticized Washington for taking a bellicose approach to North Korea, as well as to Iraq and Iran, the three countries that U.S. President George W. Bush has termed the "axis of evil."

Russia and Iran are cooperating in atomic energy projects, which critics have said could prefigure Iran developing nuclear weapons.

However, Mamedov said that "Russia is ready to make any guarantee, cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and work with Iran to see that used nuclear fuel is returned and cannot be used for the production of nuclear weapons components even in secrecy."