HANOVER, Germany, (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Monday that any military conflict on the Korean peninsula had the potential to be worse than the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl.
"If something happens, God forbid, (then) Chernobyl which we all know about very well would simply seem like a children's fairy tale," he told reporters at an industrial fair in Germany.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin welcomed a US decision to delay the test of an international ballistic missile to avoid stoking tensions with North Korea.
"I think the United States took a very important step in delaying the test of a ballistic missile," he said.
"We should thank the United States for this important step," he added. "I hope it will be noticed by our partners including North Korea and that everyone will calm down and work together to seek a solution to the various problems."
With an eye to China, Merkel said world powers with influence in the region needed to work together to smooth tensions.
"We agreed that the international community must work to have a calming effect on the situation and toward North Korea stopping its provocations," she said.
North Korea's bellicose rhetoric has reached fever pitch in recent weeks, with near-daily threats of attacks on US military bases and South Korea in response to ongoing South Korea-US military exercises.
The United States, which has met the North's threats with some military muscle-flexing of its own, offered a calibrated concession Saturday by delaying a planned inter-continental ballistic missile test.
Washington had said it feared the Minuteman 3 test could be misconstrued as an attempt to exacerbate the crisis.
China, Pyongyang's sole major ally for decades and its biggest trading partner, said Sunday it had told North Korea it would not tolerate "troublemaking" on its doorstep.