Russian President Vladimir Putin has voiced opposition to imposing further sanctions on North Korea and criticized what he called “military hysteria” following Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear bomb test, saying it could lead to a “global catastrophe.”
Speaking to reporters following a summit of the BRICS countries in China, Putin said that Russia condemns North Korea’s actions as “provocative,” but added that imposing further sanctions on Pyongyang would be “useless and inefficient.”
Putin said that North Koreans were prepared to “eat grass” but “will not give up their [nuclear] program unless they feel safe.”
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.
Putin’s comments came after the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said that Kim Jong Un was “begging for war” with the latest test and that the United States will circulate a new UN resolution this week to toughen sanctions against North Korea.
North Korea trumpeted “perfect success” on September 3 in its underground nuclear explosion, announcing that it had tested what it said was a hydrogen bomb capable of being loaded on a long-range missile.
The bomb was thought to have a power range of at least 50 kilotons — five times the size of the North’s previous nuclear test in September 2016 and more than three times bigger than the bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs were banned by resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council — whose permanent members are the Russia, the United States, China, Britain, and France — but Pyongyang has continued to carry out tests.
The U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told an emergency Security Council meeting on September 4 that the United States will circulate a new draft resolution this week to strengthen sanctions against North Korea.
Putin seemed to suggest that the U.S. push for further sanctions was aimed not at halting North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests but at removing Kim from power.
“Russia denounces North Korea’s [nuclear tests]. We believe they are of a provocative nature,” Putin said. “However, we cannot forget what [we know] about Iraq and Libya either. North Koreans definitely will not.”
The UN Security Council already imposed its stiffest sanctions so far on North Korea last month after Pyongyang test-launched two ICBM-class missiles in July.
“Enough is enough. War is never something the United States wants. We don’t want it now. But our country’s patience is not unlimited,” Haley said.
“The time has come to exhaust all diplomatic means before it is too late,” she added.
However, the Russian and Chinese envoys called for calm and for a peaceful, diplomatic solution.
“The situation on the peninsula is deteriorating constantly as we speak, falling into a vicious circle,” Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi said. “The peninsula issue must be resolved peacefully. China will never allow chaos and war on the peninsula.”
China is North Korea’s main economic partner and, along with Russia, the closest thing it has to an ally on the diplomatic stage.
Analysts say China is wary of taking sever action against North Korea because it fears the sudden collapse of Kim’s government could lead to chaos and the potential for hundreds of thousands of North Koreans to flee across the Chinese border.
Russia’s envoy Vasily Nebenzya called on the international community “not to give in to emotions and proceed in a calm and balanced manner.”
“Peace in the region is being subjected to a serious test, and the threat of the standoff turning into a hot stage is big as never before,” he said.
Moscow backs Beijing’s proposal for a freeze on North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a suspension of U.S.-South Korea joint military drills.
Other Security Council members — including France, Britain, and temporary member Japan — are calling for further sanctions.
Britain’s UN ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, on September 4 again pushed for his proposal to cut back on North Korean laborers who work abroad and send their earnings back to the regime. Such guest workers mainly are employed in Russia and China.
Late on September 4, U.S. President Donald Trump held calls with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the White House said afterward that “all options to address the North Korean threat are on the table.”
Merkel, whose country is not a permanent member of the Security Council, told Trump during their phone conversation that she will press for stricter EU sanctions on Pyongyang, a German government statement said.
Meanwhile, South Korean warships conducted live-fire exercises at sea on September 5, a day after its military simulated a missile attack on the North’s nuclear test site.
Seoul said it had seen indications that North Korea is preparing more missile launches, possibly an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).