Even Russia Is Slamming North Korea, Despite Blaming U.S. for Missile Launch

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (right) and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) attend a session of the Council of Heads of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Sochi, Russia, on October 11. Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Despite repeatedly piling blame on the U.S. for the rising crisis on the Korean Peninsula, Russia's top diplomat issued a reminder that Moscow is still opposed to North Korea's actions and considers them inflammatory.

"I am not defending Pyongyang," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a policy forum with students in the Russian city of Sochi on Monday, state news agency RIA Novosti reported. "Pyongyang is behaving provocatively, in harsh violation of the [United Nations] Security Council's resolution."

Russia is not a military ally of the North Korean regime but has repeatedly opposed U.S. reinforcement of Japan and South Korea, the two states most threatened by North Korea's ambitions. Moscow has carried out a handful of military drills in its small border region with North Korea. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Washington last month that sanctions on North Korea are "useless and ineffective," as the regime would let its people "eat grass" before scrapping its nuclear program.

Lavrov's own deputy Sergei Ryabkov blamed the U.S. alliance with Japan and South Korea for triggering North Korea's last missile launch in August. Lavrov's position so far has been to call for a joint strategy with China with the aim of persuading Pyongyang to scale back its program.

Earlier this month, Putin accused U.S. President Donald Trump of emboldening Pyongyang with his threats to the regime, and played down the rogue state's capabilities.

"All sides must ease rhetoric and find ways for face-to-face dialogue between the United States and North Korea, as well as between North Korea and countries in the region," Putin said.

The extent of U.S. interest in diplomacy with the region has been unclear lately, as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has pledged to work on solving the crisis through nonmilitary means "until the first bomb drops." Trump has been openly disparaging of such efforts.

"I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man," Trump tweeted earlier this month in comments that have damaged the U.S. diplomat's role publicly. "Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!"