The leaders of Japan and South Korea called for stronger sanctions against North Korea on visits to Russia's Vladivostok despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's warning against "pushing North Korea into a corner."
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on September 7 to cooperate on seeking tougher sanctions such as those floated at the United Nations by the United States, cutting off North Korea's oil, foreign workers, textile exports, and other income sources in retaliation for its weekend nuclear test, said Yoon Young-chan, Moon's chief press secretary.
Yoon said Moon and Abe in particular agreed to try to persuade China and Russia to cut off Pyongyang's oil supplies, although he said Putin has opposed that, saying it would hurt North Korea's impoverished citizens as well as its government.
Kremlin officials also said Russia doesn't supply oil to North Korea.
Yoon said Moon privately urged Putin to support the stronger sanctions at a meeting in Vladivostok on September 6, including a ban on North Korea's program of supplying guest workers to Russia, China, and other nations, but Putin did not agree.
"We should not give in to emotions and push Pyongyang into a corner," Putin said in a news conference after the meeting on the sidelines of an economic conference. "As never before, everyone should show restraint and refrain from steps leading to escalation and tensions."
Abe said before meeting with Putin in Vladivostok on September 7 that "we must make North Korea understand there is no bright future for the country if it pursues the current path."
Their renewed push for sanctions came as the United States in a draft UN resolution proposed imposing an oil embargo on North Korea and a freeze on assets of the reclusive country’s government and its leader, Kim Jong Un.
The resolution, seen by U.S. and other media on September 6, also calls for a travel ban on Kim and a block on the country’s textile exports and payments to the up to 100,000 North Korea laborers working abroad.
The demand for enhanced sanctions is in response to Pyongyang’s continued defiance of UN resolutions against its nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs.
The draft UN resolution also calls for a freeze on the assets of North Korea’s national airline, Air Koryo, which flies to Beijing and other Chinese cities, and to Vladivostok in Russia.
Tensions between Pyongyang and many world powers, particularly the United States, Japan, and South Korea, are at their highest levels in years.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim have exchanged threats in a war of words that intensified after the North on September 3 tested what Pyongyang described as a hydrogen bomb that could be placed on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States.
North Korea’s main ally, China, has condemned Pyongyang’s nuclear tests, as has Putin. It was not known if China would support the tough new moves against Pyongyang.
To pass, a UN resolution would require nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the 15-member Security Council's permanent members, the United States, Britain, France, Russia, or China.
Reports of the U.S.-drafted resolution came after Trump spoke to his Chinese counterpart to discuss the crisis.
A statement from China's Foreign Ministry said Xi told Trump that Beijing is "unswervingly" working to achieve denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
"At the same time, we always persist in safeguarding peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and resolving the issue through dialogue and consultation," Xi told his U.S. counterpart.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, requested that the Council vote on the draft resolution on September 11, but Russia's UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, said that date might be "a little premature."
The latest moves also come as NATO on September 6 demanded tougher implementation of existing sanctions against North Korea and called for new efforts to draw Pyongyang away from its "threatening and destabilizing path."
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP