Russians call for calm over N Korea
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.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has again pushed a proposal by Moscow to kickstart talks between the United States and North Korea.