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Russia Open to Further Nuclear Talks Without North Korea

Russia says it is open to further international discussions on North Korea's nuclear program, despite Pyongyang's withdrawal from the so-called six-party talks.

Russia's envoys to the nuclear talks, Alexei Borodavkin, said Russia would be open to continue talks with the remaining participants - the United States, China, Japan and South Korea, as long as the aim is to get North Korea to return to the negotiating table. Borodavkin spoke after meeting his South Korean counterpart, Wi Sung-lac, in Moscow Wednesday.

China, which has hosted the nuclear talks, has not indicated its position on a five-party meeting.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama renewed sanctions against North Korea, saying the North's nuclear program posed a national security risk to the United States. The move prolongs by one year sanctions on Pyongyang that had been due to expire on Friday.

North Korean state media on Wednesday continued a barrage of bellicose rhetoric, threatening to wipe the United States off the map and reunify the Korean peninsula if the United States starts another war.

The commentary by Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency came days before the July 27 anniversary of the armistice in the 1950 to 1953 Korean War. The state-run agency chastised the United States for alleged atrocities during the war and claimed that the war ended in defeat for the U.S.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula and throughout the region have increased since Pyongyang's recent nuclear test, as well as several missile launches.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution imposing new sanctions on the North, including authorizing U.N. members to track and inspect North Korean cargo ships for illicit missile-related technology.

A U.S. Navy destroyer off the Chinese coast is tracking a North Korean ship suspected of smuggling missiles or related parts in violation of the sanctions. Reports citing unidentified intelligence sources in South Korea say the vessel, the Kang Nam, appears to be heading to Burma by way of Singapore.

The U.S. military has not indicated any plans to search the vessel, which belongs to a fleet of ships that U.S. officials say have been used in the past to transport weapons.

A U.S. Department of Defense spokesman said Wednesday that a decision on whether to contact the vessel or not will likely be made together with other countries.

North Korea has said it would consider inspections of its ships an act of war.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.