Special to WorldTribune.com
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned against “driving North Korea into a corner” over its nuclear weapons program and missile tests.
Putin spoke on September 6 after meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of the Russian-hosted Eastern Economic Forum in the Pacific coastal city of Vladivostok.
Putin denounced North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear bomb test on September 3, saying Russia did not recognize North Korea’s nuclear status.
“Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear program is a crude violation of UN Security Council resolutions, undermines the non-proliferation regime, and creates a threat to the security of northeastern Asia,” he told a joint news conference with Moon.
But Putin also reiterated his opposition to further sanctions against North Korea, saying “it is clear that it is impossible to resolve the problem of the Korean peninsula only by sanctions and pressure.”
He said there is a need to “stay calm, more than ever, and avoid steps which may escalate tensions.”
Russia often mixes criticism of North Korean actions with calls on the United States, South Korea, and Japan to refrain from any steps that might increase tension or provoke Pyongyang, whose ties with Moscow are far warmer than with Washington.
Meanwhile, the South Korean president’s office said Moon urged Putin to support, at least, the imposition of international sanctions that would block oil deliveries to North Korea.
According to a South Korean transcript of Moon’s talks with Putin, Moon asked Putin “to actively cooperate as this time it is inevitable that North Korea’s oil supply should be cut at the least.”
But, according to the transcript, Putin told Moon that North Korea would not give up its nuclear program no matter how tough the sanctions, and also voiced concern that cutting oil supplies could hurt ordinary North Koreans.
The transcript said Putin told Moon that Russia exports about 40,000 tons of crude oil to North Korea per year. The Reuters news agency cited industry sources as saying China provides North Korea with about 520,000 tons of crude oil per year.
Putin’s remarks reiterated the position voiced on September 5 after a summit of the BRICS countries in China, when he condemned North Korea’s latest nuclear test as “provocative” but said further sanctions on Pyongyang would be “useless and inefficient.”
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “begging for war” with the country’s latest nuclear test.
Haley said Washington would propose a new UN resolution this week on tougher sanctions against North Korea.
Russia has veto power as a permanent UN Security Council member along with China, the United States, Britain, and France.
North Korea on September 3 claimed “perfect success” with what it said was the test of a hydrogen bomb capable of being loaded on a long-range missile.
The test violated a UN ban on North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.
China and Russia have suggested a “freeze for freeze” plan, where the United States and South Korea would agree to stop major military exercises in the region in exchange for a halt to North Korea’s weapons programs.
But neither side has accepted that idea.