Putin echoes China in rejecting tougher N. Korea sanctions

The US will circulate new draft sanctions and wants the Security Council to vote on them on Sept 11


MOSCOWRussian President Vladimir Putin (picture) again rejected US calls for new sanctions against North Korea after its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, echoing China’s resistance to more punitive measures to pressure Pyongyang into abandoning its atomic and missile programmes.

The Russian leader criticised sanctions as “useless and ineffective”, instead urging the international community to offer security guarantees to North Korea.

“They’ll eat grass, but they won’t abandon their programme unless they feel secure,” he told reporters yesterday at an emerging markets summit in Xiamen, China, which was hosted by his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Nikki Haley, said on Monday the Trump administration would seek the strongest possible sanctions against Kim Jong Un’s regime. Kim was “begging for war” after testing what he claimed was a hydrogen bomb, she said after a meeting of the UN Security Council.

Haley said the US would circulate new draft sanctions and wants the Security Council to vote on them on Sept 11.

Japan is singing the same tune as the US, with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso yesterday calling for additional measures. “There’s no chance of talks progressing without increasing pressure,” he told reporters in Tokyo.

The standoff between North Korea and the US has become the most dangerous foreign crisis facing President Donald Trump, as the isolated Communist state accelerates its programme to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Putin condemned what he described as a policy of whipping up war hysteria, which he said could lead to a “global catastrophe and a huge number” of human casualties. “There’s no other path except for a peaceful, diplomatic resolution of the North Korean nuclear problem,” he said.

Even before North Korea detonated its most powerful nuclear bomb on Sunday, Japan was calling for moves to cut off its oil supply. Afterward, Trump threatened to halt all trade with any country that does business with Kim Jong Un’s regime. China, which supplies most of its food and fuel, called the warning “unacceptable”.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang batted off a question at a briefing in Beijing on whether his nation would consider limiting oil shipments to North Korea.

“The actions and reactions of the Security Council will depend on the conclusions reached through debate by its members,” Geng said, according to an official transcript. “China will promote denuclearisation and the maintenance of stability on the peninsula, and promote solving problems on the peninsula through dialogue and consultation.”

Since the Korean War, Beijing has avoided prodding North Korea to the point it might collapse, fearing a destabilising economic blow and the possibility of the US military gaining influence on its border via a unified Korea. That calculation has held even while China’s interests have diverged from those of North Korea.

Even so, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa said yesterday that her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi told her that Beijing is open to additional sanctions. Kang told Parliament that her nation is working with the US for the “strongest” measures against North Korea.

Trump agreed on Monday to support billions of dollars in new weapons sales to South Korea. In a phone conversation with South Korean President Moon Jae-In, Trump said he would support “in principle” the US ally fitting its missiles with heavier warheads, boosting its deterrence against North Korea.

Hours later, the Seoul-based Asia Business Daily reported that North Korea was preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) before Saturday. The country’s Defence Ministry declined to comment on the report saying the isolated state was observed moving an ICBM to a launch site.

South Korea has detected “continued activities” related to North Korea missile tests in the aftermath of its sixth and most powerful nuclear detonation, according to a government official who asked not to be named in line with government policy.

Chang Kyung-soo, acting chief of the Defence Ministry’s policy planning office, told lawmakers in Seoul on Monday that North Korea was readying a missile firing, but didn’t give a timeframe. The Yonhap News Agency cited South Korea’s spy agency as saying there is a chance Pyongyang could fire an ICBM into the Pacific Ocean. North Korea has previously threatened to launch missiles toward Guam.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry will review “various possible options” to find a “realistic” solution to North Korea’s threats, spokesman Moon Sang-gyun told reporters in Seoul yesterday. He was clarifying Defence Minister Song Young-moo’s comment on Monday that redeployment of US tactical nuclear weapons could be an option.

The nation’s navy also began live-fire drills involving 20 vessels — exercises that will continue through Saturday.

Sunday’s test, North Korea’s first since Trump took office, was a “perfect success” and confirmed the precision and technology of the bomb, the regime said. Energy from the underground explosion was about six times stronger than the last test a year ago, South Korea’s weather agency said. — Bloomberg