Moon presses Putin over North Korea oil supplies but Russian leader is reluctant
Putin says pressure, sanctions will not solve crisis
Amid escalating tensions in the Korean Peninsula, South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday asked his Russian counterpart’s cooperation in urging the international community cut off crude oil supplies to the North Korean regime.
Moon’s request was met with reluctance from Vladimir Putin, however, who condemned the tests but urged diplomatic talks.
The newly elected South Korean president had requested the United Nations Security Council to 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, Moon urged 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 Moon’s spokesman Yoon Young-chan.
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.
World powers are scrambling to respond to the latest advance in North Korea’s rogue nuclear weapons programme, which has sent global tensions soaring.
Russia has rebuffed US calls for new UN sanctions while Washington has promised its allies advanced weaponry.
On Tuesday, Putin warned of a global catastrophe unless a diplomatic solution was reached over North Korea, rejecting US calls for more sanctions as “useless”, widening the split between major powers over how to rein in Pyongyang.
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 Moon, 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 northeastern Asia.”
But Putin was reluctant to support 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,” Putin added, according Yoon’s briefing to reporters.
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,” Putin told reporters.
British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said China held the key to resolving the crisis, reiterating comments made by Prime Minister Theresa May and Australian leader Malcolm Turnbull after they spoke with Trump.
“China holds the key, the oil to North Korea flows from China ... China has not just influence but has many of the levers that are needed to change behaviour in North Korea,” Fallon told BBC radio.
The Washington Post, Reuters, Agence France-Presse