Russia has warned US President Donald Trump against starting a unilateral fight with North Korea, claiming a ‘clumsy step could lead to an explosion’.
The Kremlin’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov urged America to find a ‘political resolution’ amid heightened tensions following Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test.
And China today criticised President Donald Trump’s threat to cut off U.S. trade with countries that deal with North Korea and rejected pressure to do more to halt the North’s nuclear development.
Trump issued the threat after North Korea on Sunday exploded a thermonuclear device in its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. The threat was seen as a warning to China, North Korea’s main trading partner and only major ally.
Speaking at a BRICS summit in China, Ryabkov said: ‘Those who are stronger and smarter should show restraint. Any clumsy step could lead to an explosion.’
He said sanctions on North Korea had reached the limit of their impact. Any more would be aimed at breaking its economy, so a decision to impose further constraints would become dramatically harder, he said.
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Ryabkov added that that no country ‘the right to take unilateral action’.
It came after the US warned it could launch a ‘massive military response’ to any threats from North Korea after the rogue state announced it had successfully tested a weapon up to ten times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb that could kill millions of people.
When asked if he planned to attack Pyongyang, Donald Trump replied, ‘We’ll see’, and said he was holding a meeting with his military leaders. Mr Trump also tweeted that talk of appeasement was pointless because North Korea ‘only understand one thing’, as the state promised further tests.
Trump has also warned the US is considering halting trade with ‘any country doing business with North Korea’ – a threat China said was ‘unacceptable’ and ‘unfair’.
Foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, criticised Trump’s stance.
‘What is definitely unacceptable to us is that on the one hand we work so hard to peacefully resolve this issue and on the other hand our interests are subject to sanctions and jeopardised,’ Geng said at a regular news briefing. ‘This is unfair.’
Such an approach would be drastic if applied to China, from which the United States imports goods worth about $40 billion a month.
Trump said it was under consideration ‘in addition to other options.’
Beijing said on Monday it had lodged an official protest with its ally North Korea following Pyongyang’s largest-ever nuclear weapons test.
Despite international condemnation, Kim Jong-un’s state media stepped up its hard-line rhetoric, describing South Korea’s ‘puppet’ army as ‘scabby sheep’ and warning they face ‘world-level military power’.
‘If we fire, they will die. This is the inescapable fate of the puppet warmongers,’ the ruling-party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, wrote.
‘The puppet military gangsters should always be mindful that if they pretend to be brave, they would not save their skins as they have neither measure nor capability to cope with the ensuing consequences.
‘It is as foolish an act as exposing the neck under straw cutter to dare counter the world-level military power equipped with powerful nuclear striking means.
‘If the south Korean puppet forces continue to go reckless, misjudging the surging resentment and will of our army and people, they would face a horrible disaster.’
South Korea said on Monday it was talking to the United States about deploying aircraft carriers and strategic bombers to the Korean peninsula after signs North Korea might launch more missiles in the wake of its sixth and largest nuclear test.
The U.N. Security Council was set to meet later on Monday to discuss new sanctions against the isolated regime. U.S. President Donald Trump had also asked to be briefed on all available military options, according to his defence chief.
Officials said activity around missile launch sites suggested North Korea planned more missile tests.
‘We have continued to see signs of possibly more ballistic missile launches. We also forecast North Korea could fire an intercontinental ballistic missile,’ Jang Kyoung-soo, acting deputy minister of national defense policy, told a parliament hearing on Monday.
North Korea tested two ICBMs in July that could fly about 10,000 km (6,200 miles), putting many parts of the U.S. mainland within range and prompting a new round of tough international sanctions.
South Korea’s air force and army conducted exercises involving long-range air-to-surface and ballistic missiles on Monday following the North’s nuclear test on Sunday, its joint chiefs of staff said in a statement.
In addition to the drill, South Korea will cooperate with the United States and seek to deploy ‘strategic assets like aircraft carriers and strategic bombers’, Jang said.
South Korea’s defence ministry also said it would deploy the four remaining launchers of a new U.S. missile defence system after the completion of an environmental assessment by the government.
The rollout of the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system at a site south of the South Korean capital, Seoul, is vehemently opposed by neighbouring China and Russia, had been delayed since June.
North Korea said it tested an advanced hydrogen bomb for a long-range missile on Sunday, prompting a warning of a ‘massive’ military response from the United States if it or its allies were threatened.
‘We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea,’ U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said after meeting Trump and his national security team.
‘But as I said, we have many options to do so.’
Trump has previously vowed to stop North Korea developing nuclear weapons and said he would unleash ‘fire and fury’ if it threatened U.S. territory
Despite the tough talk, the immediate focus of the international response was expected to be on tougher economic sanctions.
Diplomats have said the U.N. Security Council could now consider banning North Korean textile exports and its national airline, stop supplies of oil to the government and military, prevent North Koreans from working abroad and add top officials to a blacklist to subject them to an asset freeze and travel ban.
Asked about Trump’s threat to punish countries that trade with North Korea, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China has dedicated itself to resolving the North Korean issue via talks, and China’s efforts had been recognised.
‘What we absolutely cannot accept is that on the one hand (we are) making arduous efforts to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, and on the other hand (our) interests are being sanctioned or harmed. This is both not objective and not fair,’ he told a regular briefing.
On possible new U.N. sanctions, and whether China would support cutting off oil, Geng said it would depend on the outcome of Security Council discussions.
Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency said in an editorial North Korea was ‘playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship’ and it should wake up to the fact that such a tactic ‘can never bring security it pursues’.