Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the United States of seeking to provoke North Korea into stepping up its nuclear missile program.
Speaking on a visit to Belarus on November 30, Lavrov also rejected a U.S. call to sever ties with North Korea following its latest ballistic-missile test.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have flared after Pyongyang said it successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile on November 29 in a "breakthrough" that put all of the U.S. mainland within range.
Washington called on nations to cut relations with Pyongyang and warned that North Korea's leadership will be "utterly destroyed" if war breaks out.
Moscow condemned the North Korean test as "a provocation," but Lavrov accused the United States of trying to provoke North Korean leader Kim Jong Un into "flying off the handle" and taking “new extreme action."
The Russian minister said in Minsk that the United States and South Korea should refrain from holding joint military exercises planned for December.
"If they want to find a pretext for destroying North Korea…then let them say it outright," said Lavrov, who also reiterated Moscow’s view that “the pressure of sanctions has been exhausted."
His comments come after U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the United States does not want a war with North Korea but warned that "the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed" if its "continued acts of aggression" lead to war.
Addressing an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council late on November 29, Haley called on other nations to cut diplomatic and trade ties with Pyongyang.
At the Security Council meeting, China and Russia called for restraint from both sides, with Russian UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya saying that the only way to prevent Pyongyang from becoming a nuclear power is through "tireless diplomatic efforts."
China and Russia are among the few states with which North Korea still has good relations.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on November 30 said Beijing could do more with its oil exports to pressure North Korea.
With reporting by AFP, the BBC, and Reuters