Trump Will Not Strike North Korea Because Pyongyang Can Hit Back, Unlike Iraq, Says Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a Security Council meeting during the 72nd United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, New York, on September 20. The meeting focused on reform of U.N. peacekeeping operations. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The U.S. won't take on North Korea by force, Russia's top diplomat has said, because Pyongyang has weapons that would posed a credible retaliatory threat.

Pointing to the end of Saddam Hussein's regime, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the state-run NTV channel the U.S. only invaded Iraq after being totally sure that the country could not hit back, and the knowledge that North Korea can do so will prevent action from Washington.

Speaking about the budding crisis around the Korean peninsula, where the North has demonstrated numerous times this summer that it is both expanding the range of its missiles and the intensity of its nuclear detonation abilities, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov harked back to 2003 invasion.

Part of the justification for the operation in Iraq was the allegation by the U.S. and U.K. that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. However, Lavrov suggested the U.S. knew there were no such weapons, that the U.S. "struck entirely because they had 100 percent information that there were no weapons of mass destruction there."

The U.S. deployed troops to Iraq and did not hit use any weapons of mass destruction of its own.

"The Americans will not hit North Korea because they not only suspect but they know that [North Korea] has a nuclear bomb," Lavrov told his interviewer. "I am not defending North Korea right now, I am only saying that practically everyone agrees with this analysis."

Should the tensions on the Korean Peninsula escalate into conflict with targeted strikes, Lavrov said "tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands" of innocent civilians in North and South Korea, as well as possibly Japan and elsewhere would suffer.

Lavrov spoke in response to the mounting war of words between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's state media, with a particular highlight of the feud coming during Trump's first address to the U.N. General Assembly. In his address Trump doubled down on his nuclear warnings to Pyongyang, telling North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that he is "rocket man on a suicide mission."

Although Russia and China supported the last U.S. drafted batch of sanctions on Pyongyang, earlier this month, Moscow and Beijing oppose further action against the regime that does not involve diplomatic talks.

In principle both countries object to North Korea's nuclear proliferation goals, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to move toward acceptance that Pyongyang achieving nuclear capabilities was inevitable earlier this month.

He told reporters that no amount of sanctions would curb Pyongyang's program as North Koreans would "eat grass" before they gave up on their militarization.

Russia and China finished the second stage of their joint naval drill in Pacific waters near the Korean peninsula on Monday, drafting over a dozen ships in it.