China and Russia, North Korea's two biggest political allies, say calls to further tighten sanctions against Pyongyang in the wake of its latest nuclear test would do little ease tensions on the peninsula.
Speaking Tuesday at the sidelines of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) summit of emerging national economies in the Chinese city of Xiamen, Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned North Korea over its latest missile test, but warned that ramping up "military hysteria" will only lead to a "global catastrophe." He also criticized the U.S. call for more sanctions against Pyongyang as "useless and ineffective," and added that it was "ridiculous" for Washington to impose sanctions on Moscow for trading with North Korea, then turn around and ask for help imposing sanctions on the isolated regime.
Russia and China, who routinely disapprove imposing sanctions on Pyongyang, have recently urged the United States and South Korea to end all joint military exercises, in exchange for North Korea ending its nuclear and missile testing program. Bruce Bennett, a defense analyst with the Rand Corporation research group, told VOA the two nations are reluctant to impose new U.N. sanctions because "they just don't know how unstable North Korea is."
Push for stronger sanctions
President Donald Trump and his counterpart in Seoul on Monday agreed to lift payload restrictions on South Korean missiles and push for even stronger United Nations sanctions against North Korea.
The South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, also has asked the United Nations to consider blocking oil shipments to the North, government officials in Seoul told reporters.
White House officials did not mention oil sanctions against Pyongyang, but they said Trump and Moon broadly agreed on all major points in their 40-minute telephone conference Monday, a day after North Korea triggered a global storm of protest by detonating a nuclear warhead underground that it said was a hydrogen bomb.
"Both leaders underscored the grave threat that North Korea's latest provocation poses to the entire world," A White House statement said.
Admonishment at UN
The United States will circulate a draft of a new resolution about North Korea at the United Nations this week, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told an emergency meeting of Security Council on Monday. American diplomats said they hope the resolution can be brought to a vote within one week.
In addition to his extensive talks with Trump, Moon also conferred by phone Monday with Kremlin leader Putin. Officials in Moscow said the Russian president advised that the only way to resolve the crisis on the Korean Peninsula is through diplomacy and negotiations.
Mattis warns Pyongyang
The United States, in specific warnings by President Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis, has warned North Korea to expect a massive, overwhelming military response if it directly threatens the United States, its allies in Asia or the U.S. territory.
South Korean naval forces conducted a second consecutive day of live-fire exercises in its southern seas Tuesday.
President Moon took office in Seoul hoping to establish better relations with Pyongyang, but the Kim Jong Un regime's repeated provocations - multiple missile tests and, most recently, its most powerful nuclear test ever - appear to have dashed those hopes.
Trump criticized Moon on Sunday for what he called "talk of appeasement" for North Korea, but officials in both capitals took pains Monday to demonstrate they were united in their approach to North Korea.
Trump has vowed to stop all U.S. trade with any country doing business with North Korea, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is said to be working on details of such a plan, which would primarily target Pyongyang’s neighbor and main trading partner, China. More than 90 percent of North Korea’s export earnings come from China.
Since U.S. trade with China is more than $600 billion per year, dwarfing trade between Pyongyang and Beijing, analysts are skeptical of the viability of the embargo Trump has proposed. They also doubt that Beijing would agree to a move that could cause the collapse of Kim Jong Un’s regime.