As Kim Jong-un reportedly prepares another missile launch, Russian president says only way to solve issue is through dialogue.
The Russian president Vladimir Putin has warned that the escalating North Korean crisis could cause a “planetary catastrophe” and huge loss of life.
“Ramping up military hysteria in such conditions is senseless; it’s a dead end,” he told reporters in China. “It could lead to a global, planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. There is no other way to solve the North Korean nuclear issue, save that of peaceful dialogue.”
On Sunday North Korea carried out its sixth and by far most powerful nuclear test to date. The underground blast triggered a magnitude 6.3 tremor and was more powerful than the bombs dropped by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the second world war.
Speaking on the final day of the Brics summit in Xiamen, China, Putin said Russia condemned North Korea’s provocations but believed further sanctions would be “useless and ineffective”.
Foreign interventions in Iraq and Libya had convinced North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that he needed nuclear weapons to survive, Putin said.
“We all remember what happened with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. His children were killed, I think his grandson was shot, the whole country was destroyed and Saddam Hussein was hanged … We all know how this happened and people in North Korea remember well what happened in Iraq.
“They will eat grass but will not stop their programme as long as they do not feel safe.”
Putin’s warning came as South Korea refused to rule out redeploying US tactical nuclear weapons on its territory – a move that could seriously harm efforts to ease tensions as signs emerged that Pyongyang was preparing to launch another intercontinental ballistic missile.
Seoul has routinely dismissed the option of basing US nuclear weapons on South Korean soil for the first time since the 1990s, but the country’s defence minister, Song Young-moo, said “all available military options” were being considered to address the growing threat from North Korean missiles.
On Tuesday, South Korean warships conducted live-fire drills at sea, with more exercises planned this week. “If the enemy launches a provocation above water or under water, we will immediately hit back to bury them at sea,” Captain Choi Young-chan, commander of the 13th Maritime Battle Group, said in a statement.
The drills came hours after Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, agreed to remove restrictions on the size of Seoul’s missile warheads and approved a deal to sell the nation “many billions of dollars’” worth of US military weapons and equipment.
The defence minister raised the possibility of redeploying US nuclear weapons in the wake of the North’s nuclear test in remarks to the South’s national assembly, according to the Yonhap news agency.
But his remarks were later clarified with spokesman Moon Sang-gyun saying there was “no change” in Seoul’s principle of working towards the complete denuclearisation of the peninsula.
Moon said the minister had simply been stressing the need to “review all available options from the military perspective and find a realistic way forwards”.
Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul, said: “No one in South Korea is seriously proposing that the US reintroduce strategic assets,” such as nuclear weapons. “That’s something they might discuss further down the line, but there are no plans for that to happen right now.”
Calls have also been growing in South Korea for the country to develop a nuclear deterrent independent of the US.
Song’s comments came amid reports that North Korea may be preparing to launch another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from a site on its west coast.
North Korea has been observed moving what appeared to be an ICBM towards its west coast, according to South Korea’s Asia Business Daily. The paper claimed the missile had been transported towards the launch site overnight on Monday to avoid surveillance.
South Korea’s defence ministry said it was unable to confirm the report, although ministry officials told parliament on Monday the regime was preparing to launch more missiles.