Russia's top diplomat says he is paying a visit to North Korea, in hopes of easing the North's resistance to talking to its neighbors. The North has pulled out of nuclear weapons talks and continues to detain South Korean and American nationals on political charges.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, shakes hands with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kung Sok Ung upon arrival in Pyongyang, 23 Apr 2009

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned other countries not to expect any breakthroughs from his visit to the North Korean capital.

Removing obstacles

In Pyongyang he met with North Korean officials to discuss removing the latest obstacles to talks on ending the North's nuclear weapons programs.

Earlier this month, North Korea announced it was pulling out of the talks process, which it described as "useless," after the United Nations condemned its launch of a long-range rocket.

Next stop, South Korea

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan is to greet Lavrov in Seoul, Friday, after he departs Pyongyang.

Yu said North Korea should not make the situation any worse and that, if North Korea carries through on threats to restart its main nuclear facilities, the United Nations will seek additional punishment.

Nuclear inspectors expelled

North Korea ejected international nuclear inspectors from the country, last week, and vowed to strengthen what it calls its "nuclear deterrent." It has warned South Korea not to follow through on its intentions to join an American-led campaign aimed at stopping weapons trafficking. Pyongyang says joining the program would be seen as an "act of war."

For more than three weeks, North Korea has detained a South Korean executive apparently accused of speaking disrespectfully of the North's leadership and encouraging a North Korean woman to defect. North Korea is also holding two American journalists, who it says trespassed across the border with China. Analysts believe the North may use both cases for political leverage with the respective countries.