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Thursday 19 October 2017

'Cut off oil to North': South Korea in plea to Russia

Putin reluctant over new sanctions, saying diplomacy the only answer

President of South Korea Moon Jae-in and Russian President Vladimir Putin applaud at an exhibition outside Vladivostok. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
President of South Korea Moon Jae-in and Russian President Vladimir Putin applaud at an exhibition outside Vladivostok. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Michelle Ye Hee Lee

Amid escalating tensions in the Korean Peninsula, South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday asked for his Russian counterpart's co-operation in urging the international community to cut off crude oil supplies to the North Korean regime.

Mr Moon's request was met with reluctance from Vladimir Putin, however, who condemned the North's missile tests but urged diplomatic talks.

The newly elected South Korean president had requested the United Nations Security Council consider tough new sanctions on North Korea to block its sources of foreign income, including cutting off its crude oil supply and banning its workers from being sent abroad.

During an economic summit in Vladivostok, Russia, Mr Moon urged Mr Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping to play a role in stopping North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations.

"The president asked Russia to help, noting it was imperative to at least cut off oil supplies to North Korea this time," according to Mr Moon's spokesman Yoon Young-chan.

US President Donald Trump has spoken with the leaders of Britain and Australia about North Korea's latest nuclear test.

An undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency yesterday showing celebrations in Pyongyang marking the completion of the hydrostatic test for the intercontinental ballistic rocket installation. Photo: REUTERS
An undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency yesterday showing celebrations in Pyongyang marking the completion of the hydrostatic test for the intercontinental ballistic rocket installation. Photo: REUTERS

The White House released details of calls on Tuesday with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Trump is believed to have stressed to Mrs May that "now is not the time to talk to North Korea" and that "all options remain open to defend the United States and its allies".

He and Mrs May also agreed to continue to work on "increasing diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea".

The White House said Mr Trump and Mr Turnbull also "confirmed that their two countries will intensify joint efforts to denuclearise North Korea".

Mr Trump repeated his commitment to "defending the homeland, territories, and allies of the United States, using all available diplomatic and military capabilities".

The Pentagon said US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis had reassured his South Korean counterpart of the "ironclad" US commitment to defend the American ally.

Overwhelming

Mr Mattis and South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo spoke and the US Defence Department said Mr Mattis made clear that any threat to the US and its allies would be met "with a massive, effective and overwhelming military response".

North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date on Sunday, detonating a device that it claimed was a hydrogen bomb designed to be carried by a long-range missile capable of reaching mainland United States.

South Korean officials have also reported signs of another missile test in the works, possibly a long-range launch set for this weekend.

At a joint news conference following his meeting with Mr Moon, Mr Putin condemned North Korea's tests, calling Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programme a "crude violation of UN Security Council resolutions" that "undermines the non-proliferation regime and creates a threat to the security of north-eastern Asia".

But Mr Putin was reluctant to support Mr Moon's push for harsher sanctions.

"However, I am concerned cutting off oil supplies to North Korea may cause damage to people in hospitals or other ordinary citizens," Mr Putin added, according to Mr Yoon's briefing to reporters.

Mr Putin maintained it was impossible to resolve the North Korean crisis with sanctions and pressure alone, and urged diplomatic solutions.

"We cannot resolve this situation without diplomatic tools, without talks.

"It would be very hard - actually, impossible," Mr Putin told reporters.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported that North Korea's recent nuclear test appears to have triggered several landslides, according to what are believed to be the first satellite images of the aftermath.

The test took place underground at the mountainous Punggye-ri site. The test unleashed a powerful 6.3-magnitude tremor which was felt across the border in China.

The site consists of a system of tunnels dug beneath a mountainous region.(© Washington Post)

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