Russian officials made a secret proposal to North Korea last fall aimed at resolving deadlocked negotiations with the Trump administration over the North’s nuclear weapons program, said U.S. officials familiar with the discussions, Washington Post informed.
In exchange for Pyongyang dismantling its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, Moscow offered the country a nuclear power plant. This offer marks a new attempt by Moscow to intervene in the high-stakes nuclear talks as it reasserts itself into a string of geopolitical flash points from the Middle East to South Asia to Latin America.
It’s unclear how President Donald Trump will view Moscow’s proposal, as for months he embraced an unorthodox approach to the negotiations, but his aides are likely to strenuously oppose any major Russian role in a final agreement, the Post adds.
As part of the deal, the Russian government would operate the plant and transfer all byproducts and waste back to Russia, reducing the risk that North Korea would use the power plant to build nuclear weapons while providing the impoverished country a new energy source.
After months of delays and canceled meetings, talks between the United States and North Korea have gained new momentum with the announcement of a second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un planned for late February.
Trump has been increasingly upbeat about another round of talks and frustrated by what he views as unfair media coverage of his diplomacy. While he touts North Korea’s suspension of missile launches and nuclear tests, critics have noted a lack of steps on the part of Pyongyang to reduce its nuclear capability.
Should the Kim regime be interested in the proposal, Russian officials have asked that Pyongyang provide a realistic timeline for when it could denuclearize, said people familiar with the discussions. The CIA has assessed that the Russian power plant would produce a very limited amount of weaponizable byproduct, said one official, who like others interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive information.