State Dept. official visited Moscow as UN voted on North Korea sanctions

State Dept. official visited Moscow as UN voted on North Korea sanctions
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The State Department's special representative for North Korea policy quietly visited Moscow on Monday as the United Nations Security Council voted on new sanctions on Pyongyang.

Joseph Yun met with officials from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss "cooperation" on issues relating to North Korea, according to State Department spokeswoman Julia Mason. 

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"This visit is an example of our ongoing discussions with the international community to increase pressure" on North Korea, the spokeswoman said, adding that U.S. officials "remain open to negotiations" towards the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

The Washington Post reported that Yun traveled to Moscow at the invitation of the Russian government, where he urged the Kremlin's support for new U.N. sanctions on North Korea.

Russia, one of the Security Council's five permanent members, eventually voted for weakened penalties against North Korea after opposing initial language that sought to impose a full oil embargo and other tough sanctions on the country.

China also opposed that language, but voted for the watered-down sanctions that passed the 15-member Security Council on Monday. The body's five permanent members — the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia — all hold the power to veto a resolution.

According to the Post, plans to send Yun to Moscow stalled last week. But after North Korea conducted its latest nuclear test, Russia and the U.S. decided to move ahead with the visit. 

“This visit is an example of our ongoing discussions with the international community to increase pressure on [North Korea],” Justin Higgins, a State Department spokesman, told the Post. “The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We remain open to negotiations towards that goal.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that during Yun's visit to Moscow, the Russian government emphasized the importance of a diplomatic solution to tensions between the U.S. and Pyongyang.

"The Russian side stressed that there is no other way to settle the problems of the Korean Peninsula, including the nuclear problem, other than by political and diplomatic means," the ministry said, according to the Russian state-run Tass news agency.

Updated: 6:55 p.m.