* Russia has stepped up criticism of North Korea
* Must maintain diplomatic efforts, Russia says (Adds comments by Russian Foreign Minister)
MOSCOW, April 9 (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday the G8 was in agreement in rejecting North Korea’s recent provocative behaviour and urged all sides to pursue diplomacy to calm the increasingly tense situation in northeast Asia.
Speaking before a regularly scheduled meeting of Group of Eight (G8) foreign ministers later this week in London, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Russia shared its partners’ concerns about North Korea.
“We are in solidarity with them as regards the rejection of Pyongyang’s current provocative and bellicose line of conduct,” he said in an interview with state news agency RIA that was posted on the ministry’s website.
“At the same time, we must not renounce political and diplomatic efforts, as any alternative brings the threat of profound upheaval in Northeast Asia,” he said.
Russia has stepped up criticism of North Korea after the Soviet-era client state conducted a nuclear test in February, which led to new U.N. Security Council sanctions that both Russia and China, the North’s closest ally, approved.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday also reiterated that Pyongyang’s violations of the U.N. Security Council were unacceptable.
“The situation is very serious anyway, nuclear explosions and rocket launches are not a joke. But the rhetoric is playing a no less harmful role,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
“That is why we are persistently seeking to calm the situation.”
North Korea has intensified threats of imminent conflict against the United States and South Korea in recent days, and on Tuesday warned foreigners to evacuate the South to avoid being caught in a war.
RIA cited an official at the Russian embassy in Seoul as saying there were no immediate plans to evacuate.
The G8 includes the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia. (Writing by Steve Gutterman and Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Michael Roddy)