SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — While condemning North Korea over its latest nuclear test, the leaders of Russia and South Korea seemed far apart on the issue of stepping up sanctions against Pyongyang after a meeting Wednesday in the Russian port city of Vladivostok.
Speaking after the meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for talks with North Korea, saying sanctions are not a solution to the country’s nuclear and missile development.
Moon had been calling for Moscow to support stronger sanctions against Pyongyang, which conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sunday in what it claimed was a detonation of a thermonuclear weapon built for intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
“We should not give in to emotions and push Pyongyang into a corner,” Putin said in a news conference after the meeting, held on the sidelines of a conference on economic development of Russia’s Far East. “As never before everyone should show restraint and refrain from steps leading to escalation and tensions.”
Moon didn’t provide details of his conversations with Putin. He said the leaders agreed that reducing regional tension and “quickly solving” the security challenges posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile program were critical. Ahead of his meeting with Putin, Moon said that the situation could get out of hand if North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests aren’t stopped.
“Myself and President Putin share a view that North Korea has gone the wrong way with its nuclear and missile program and that easing tension on the Korean Peninsula is an urgent issue,” Moon said. He complimented Putin and the Russian government over what he said were diverse efforts to find diplomatic solutions to the North Korean problem.
Moon, a liberal who took office in May, had initially showed a preference for a diplomatic approach on North Korea, but his government has since taken a harder stance as the North continued its torrid pace in weapons tests. In an interview with the Russian news agency TASS on Tuesday, Moon said he believes now is not the time for talks and that it was important for the international community to strengthen pressure against Pyongyang.
In a telephone conversation with Putin on Monday, Moon urged Russia’s support for stronger sanctions against North Korea, such as cutting off oil supplies and banning the use of exported North Korean workers who are seen as a key foreign currency source for Pyongyang. Putin then told Moon that the North Korean problem should be solved diplomatically, according to Seoul’s presidential office.
Putin, speaking in China on Tuesday, condemned the latest nuclear test as provocative, but said that Russia views sanctions on North Korea as “useless and ineffective.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will meet Putin in Vladivostok on Thursday, said before his departure from Japan that “we must make North Korea understand there is no bright future for the country if it pursues the current path.”
Moon and Abe are expected to hold a summit on Vladivostok on Thursday.