SEOUL - North Korea will stay away from international nuclear disarmament talks, Russia's foreign minister said on Friday after visiting the secretive state and pressing Pyongyang to return to the sputtering discussions.
North Korea, which raised regional tensions with a defiant rocket launch earlier this month widely seen as a disguised test of a long-range missile, can send satellites into orbit on Russian rockets, Sergei Lavrov said after leaving North Korea.
North Korea responded to U.N. punishment for the launch by saying it would boycott the nuclear talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States as well as restart its plant that makes arms-grade plutonium that was being taken apart under the deal.
North Korea at this point does not intend to return to the six-party talks, Lavrov told reporters in Seoul through a translator.
Lavrov, the first high-level envoy from a global power to visit the reclusive North since after the launch, and South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan agreed to work together to have North Korea return to the nuclear talks, Yu said at the joint news conference.
Prickly North Korea, arguing it has the right to have a peaceful space program, said it sent a satellite into orbit in the April 5 launch that is now playing revolutionary songs as it circles the earth.
U.S. and South Korean officials said nothing was sent into space during the test-flight of the North's Taepodong-2 missile, with all parts of the rocket splashing down in the sea.
Russia is willing to send the North's satellites into space in line with a similar cooperation deal it has with the South, Lavrov was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency.
Experts are uncertain if the impoverished North can actually produce a working satellite, let alone place it into orbit.
Lavrov, who delivered a message from the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to the North's leader Kim Jong-il, told reporters his country stood by the U.N. move to chastise Pyongyang and tighten existing sanctions that limit the North's arms trade and imports.
Lavrov did not meet Kim, 67, who was suspected of having a stroke in August and did not make an appearance at major public events for months after that until he appeared at the annual meeting of parliament about two weeks ago walking with a limp.
Kim, however, was able to pose for pictures with scientists responsible for the rocket launch who warmly cheered the man known in the North as the Dear Leader, North Korea's KCNA news agency said.
U.S. JOURNALIST TO GO ON TRIAL
While Lavrov was in Pyongyang, North Korea raised tension in a simmering dispute with the United States by saying it will put two U.S. journalists arrested last month on its border with China on trial to face criminal charges.
A competent organ of the DPRK (North Korea) concluded the investigation into the journalists of the United States. The organ formally decided to refer them to a trial on the basis of the confirmed crimes committed by them, KCNA said in a separate dispatch.
The pair, Euna Lee and Laura Ling of U.S. media outlet Current TV, were arrested in March along the border between North Korea and China. North Korea has accused them of illegally entering its territory with hostile intent.
The U.S. State Department had no immediate comment.
Washington has said it was in touch with the North through various channels to secure the release of the two journalists, with details of their pre-dawn arrest still murky several weeks
Financial market players in Seoul, used to North Korea's saber rattling, have mostly shrugged off Pyongyang's threat to bolster its nuclear deterrent.
But analysts say markets may take notice of heightened political risk if the North restarts a lab at its nuclear complex to separate more plutonium for weapons, which could increase the likelihood of a new nuclear test.