Rus­sians call for calm over N Korea

Sunday Star-Times - - WORLD -

Rus­sia has urged ‘‘hot­heads’’ to calm down af­ter the United States said it felt ‘‘chal­lenged’’ by North Korea’s warn­ing that it could test a hy­dro­gen bomb over the Pa­cific Ocean, and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un traded more in­sults.

Trump called the North Korean leader a ‘‘mad­man’’ yes­ter­day, a day af­ter Kim dubbed him a ‘‘men­tally de­ranged US dotard’’ who would face the ‘‘high­est level of hard-line coun­ter­mea­sure in his­tory’’ in re­tal­i­a­tion for Trump say­ing the US would ‘‘to­tally de­stroy’’ North Korea if it threat­ened the US or its al­lies.

‘‘We have to calm down the hot­heads,’’ Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov told re­porters at the United Na­tions, where world lead­ers gath­ered this week for the an­nual UN Gen­eral Assem­bly. ‘‘We con­tinue to strive for the rea­son­able and not the emo­tional ap­proach . . . of the kinder­garten fight be­tween chil­dren.’’

US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son ex­pressed hope in an in­ter­view with ABC that sanc­tions and ‘‘voices from ev­ery cor­ner of the world’’ could lead North Korea back to talks, but ad­mit­ted that the in­ten­si­fy­ing rhetoric had left Wash­ing­ton ‘‘quite chal­lenged’’.

North Korea’s For­eign Min­is­ter Ri Yong-ho has warned that Kim could con­sider a hy­dro­gen bomb test over the Pa­cific Ocean.

Tiller­son said US diplo­matic ef­forts would con­tinue but all mil­i­tary op­tions were still on the ta­ble.

Py­ongyang con­ducted its sixth and largest nu­clear test on Septem­ber 3, and has launched dozens of mis­siles this year as it ac­cel­er­ates a pro­gramme aimed at en­abling it to tar­get the US with a nu­clear-tipped mis­sile.

Lavrov yes­ter­day again pushed a pro­posal by Moscow and Bei­jing for a dual sus­pen­sion of North Korean weapons tests and USSouth Korean mil­i­tary drills to kick­start talks. He sug­gested that a neu­tral Euro­pean coun­try could me­di­ate.

Lavrov de­scribed the ex­change of in­sults be­tween the US and North Korean lead­ers as ‘‘quite bad, un­ac­cept­able’’.

Trump yes­ter­day tweeted: ‘‘Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is ob­vi­ously a mad­man who doesn’t mind starv­ing or killing his peo­ple, will be tested like never be­fore.’’

The White House said Trump and South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in had agreed to Seoul’s ‘‘ac­qui­si­tion and de­vel­op­ment of highly ad­vanced mil­i­tary as­sets’’ and to in­creased de­ploy­ment of US strate­gic as­sets in and around South Korea. It did not name spe­cific weapons sys­tems.

The North’s of­fi­cial KCNA news agency also pub­lished rare crit­i­cism of of­fi­cial Chi­nese me­dia, say­ing com­ments about North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gramme had dam­aged ties and sug­gest­ing that Bei­jing, its neigh­bour and only ma­jor ally, had sided with Wash­ing­ton.

The KCNA said Chi­nese me­dia were ‘‘openly re­sort­ing to in­ter­fer­ence in the in­ter­nal af­fairs of an­other coun­try’’ and driv­ing a wedge be­tween the two coun­tries.

China’s For­eign Min­istry spokesman Lu Kang said: ‘‘All rel­e­vant sides should ex­er­cise re­straint and ded­i­cate them­selves to eas­ing the sit­u­a­tion rather than ir­ri­tat­ing each other.’’

China an­nounced yes­ter­day that it will limit oil sup­plies to North Korea un­der UN sanc­tions, step­ping up the pres­sure on Py­ongyang.

The Com­merce Min­istry said that China, the North’s main trad­ing part­ner and en­ergy sup­plier, would limit sup­plies of re­fined petroleum prod­ucts from Oc­to­ber 1. It said Bei­jing would also ban im­ports of North Korean tex­tiles, one of Py­ongyang’s last ma­jor sources of for­eign rev­enue fol­low­ing re­peated rounds of UN sanc­tions.

REUTERS

Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov has again pushed a pro­posal by Moscow to kick­start talks be­tween the United States and North Korea.

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