US seeks to solve N. Korea crisis

By BLOOMBERG

VLADIVOSTOKRussian President Vladimir Putin (picture) said the Trump administration was willing to solve the North Korean crisis through diplomacy, while reiterating that more sanctions wouldn’t prompt Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons.

“We see the administration’s desire to defuse this situation,” Putin said of the US yesterday at a forum in Vladivostok. He sat next to the leaders of two American allies, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“I’m confident that things won’t get to the point of a largescale conflict, especially involving the use of weapons of mass destruction,” Putin said. “All the conflicting sides have enough common sense and understanding of their responsibility to people, and we will be able to resolve this problem by diplomatic means.”

Putin has led a push to restart dialogue over North Korea’s nuclear programme in recent days while the US seeks to rally the United Nations (UN) Security Council for tougher sanctions, including a ban on oil imports. Russia and China, both of which can veto UN resolutions, are reluctant to impose any measures that could prompt Kim’s regime to collapse.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said at a conference in Seoul yesterday that North Korea may launch its next missile on Saturday — the anniversary of its founding — adding there isn’t much time until the regime becomes a fully nuclear-armed state. The yen strengthened on Lee’s remarks, which echoed previous comments from other officials who see Kim accelerating his push to acquire the capability to strike the US with a nuclear weapon.

“We will reply to US barbarian sanctions and pressure with our powerful countermeasures,” North Korea said in a Russian-language statement released in Vladivostok yesterday.

China will support further UN action if it helps restart dialogue with North Korea, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday. Asked about a potential ban on crude exports to North Korea, Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng reiterated that China will strictly enforce UN resolutions without directly commenting on the merits of the proposal.

Putin said yesterday that North Korea won’t agree to end its nuclear programme in return for easing sanctions.

“It’s impossible to scare them,” Putin said of North Korea. “They think that means the next step for them is an invitation to the cemetery.”

Moon said that South Korea was increasing pressure on Pyongyang in the hope of achieving a diplomatic and peaceful resolution to the crisis.

“I can say for sure that there will be no war on the Korean peninsula again,” Moon said. The US also wants to resolve the North Korean issue through talks, he said.

Abe took a harder line, saying that North Korea must be made to give up its entire nuclear weapons and missile programme. He added that North Korea was a grave and immediate threat. — Bloomberg