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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

China backs stronger sanctions on North Korea but Russia resists

US seeking oil embargo and asset freeze to punish Pyongyang over nuclear test

Batteries of the US-made Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system, or THAAD, are deployed at a golf course in Seongju, South Korea on September 7, 2017 as Seoul boosts its defences after North Korea's sixth nuclear test on September 3, 2017. Kim Jun-beom / Yonhap via AP
Batteries of the US-made Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system, or THAAD, are deployed at a golf course in Seongju, South Korea on September 7, 2017 as Seoul boosts its defences after North Korea's sixth nuclear test on September 3, 2017. Kim Jun-beom / Yonhap via AP

China on Thursday said it would agree to new UN sanctions on North Korea over its latest nuclear test, while Russian president Vladimir Putin resisted pressure from Japan and South Korea to support such measures.

"Given the new developments on the Korean peninsula, China agrees that the UN Security Council should respond further by taking necessary measures," Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said.

However, "sanctions and pressure are only half of the key to resolving the issue", Mr Wang said. "The other half is dialogue and negotiation."

The United States is demanding that the United Nations slap an oil embargo on North Korea in response to its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sunday, and a freeze on the foreign assets of its leader Kim Jong-un.

North Korea said Sunday's detonation was a "perfect success" in testing a hydrogen bomb, raising fears that it had developed the technology to build a nuclear device small enough to be mounted on a missile.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday that the international community had to "unite in applying the greatest possible pressure on North Korea".

Speaking alongside Mr Putin and South Korean president Moon Jae-in at an economic forum in Vladivostok, Mr Abe said: "We must make North Korea immediately and fully comply with all relevant UN Security Council resolutions and abandon all its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner."

South Korea also pushed for more punishment, with Mr Moon saying that "perhaps the time has come for stronger sanctions".

Mr Putin has however insisted that further economic pressure on Pyongyang would not work and that the only route to a solution was diplomacy.

"It is impossible to intimidate them," he said in Vladivostok, and called for "common sense" to prevail in the US.

After talks with Mr Abe, the Russian president reiterated that "only diplomacy and political means" could resolve the crisis.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has said the United States will seek a Security Council vote on its proposed sanctions on Monday.

The EU is preparing to increase its own sanctions against North Korea to punish the rogue state, diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said as she arrived for a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers in Estonia.

"I will put forward to ministers to work in the coming days to increase EU autonomous sanctions," Ms Mogherini said.

In a sign of the international stakes over Pyongyang's latest test, China said on Thursday that it had lodged a diplomatic protest with South Korea over its increased deployment of a US anti-missile system to counter the North Korean threat.

The rebuke came as a convoy of US military trucks carrying four launchers for the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system made their way through an activists' blockade at a former golf course in the southern county of Seongju.

In a phone call with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Wednesday, US president Donald Trump insisted that military action against North Korea was not his "first choice" and pushed for a diplomatic option.

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