Monday 23 April 2018

'Global catastrophe' if North Korea attacked - Putin

Russia condemns latest nuclear test by Kim but calls for diplomacy

A TV shows Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in talking on the phone Photo: AP
A TV shows Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in talking on the phone Photo: AP

Henry Meyer Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned North Korea's latest nuclear test but also warned against using military force against the country, calling it a "road to nowhere" that could lead to a "global catastrophe".

But Mr Putin 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.

Catastrophe warning: Russian President Vladimir Putin Photo: AP
Catastrophe warning: Russian President Vladimir Putin Photo: AP

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 Nikki Haley said on Monday the Trump administration would seek the strongest possible sanctions against Kim Jong-un's regime.

Mr Kim was "begging for war" after testing what he claimed was a hydrogen bomb, she said after a meeting of the UN Security Council.

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

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

Mr 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. Afterwards, Mr Trump threatened to halt all trade with any country that does business with Mr Kim'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," Mr 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. Ms Kang told parliament that her nation is working with the US for the "strongest" measures against North Korea.

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

A day later, Mr Trump tweeted: "I am allowing Japan & South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States."

The Seoul-based 'Asia Business Daily' reported that North Korea was preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) before Saturday. South Korea's defence ministry declined to comment on the report that said the ICBM was being moved to a launch site.

South Korea has detected "continued activities" related to North Korean missile tests, according to a government official who asked not to be named in line with government policy.

The Yonhap News Agency cited South Korea's spy agency as saying there was a chance Pyongyang could fire an ICBM into the Pacific Ocean.

North Korea has previously threatened to launch missiles toward Guam.



Irish Independent

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