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EU to decide on new North Korea sanctions

September 7, 2017

South Korea and Japan have presented a united front against North Korea, agreeing to coordinate their response on the hydrogen bomb test. While the EU is mulling new sanctions, Russia has called for talks.

Nordkorea 6. Nukleartest | Versammlung in Pjöngjang
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin

European foreign and defense officials will on Thursday discuss imposing the EU's own sanctions on North Korea, after the rogue state claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb — its largest nuclear weapons test yet — over the weekend.

"Today we are facing a different level of threat that is clearly a threat to global peace and security," European Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini told reporters ahead of a meeting of ministers in the Estonian capital of Tallinn. "I will propose to ministers today to strengthen our economic pressure on North Korea."

Read moreNorth Korea: From war to nuclear weapons

Mogherini said the bloc should align itself with the latest UN Security Council resolution, but also impose its own series of sanctions against Pyongyang, which wouldn't require the backing of China and Russia.

While she refused to go into details, a US-drafted resolution for further sanctions includes freezing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's assets and imposing an oil embargo. The draft, seen by the DPA news agency, also calls for a ban on North Korean textile exports and the employment of the North Korean workers abroad. The proposal has reportedly been submitted to other Security Council members.

South Korea, Japan to coordinate new sanctions

At the same time, in the far-eastern Russian port city of Vladivostok, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to closely coordinate new, tougher sanctions against Pyongyang.

After holding talks on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum, the two leaders said they would together push the Security Council to include "the most powerful sanctions so far, such as cutting off oil supplies," according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Addressing the audience in Vladivostok, Abe called on the international community "to unite in applying the greatest possible pressure on North Korea."

The Japanese Prime Minister added: "We must make North Korea immediately and fully comply with all relevant UN Security Council resolutions and abandon all its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner." 

Infografik Kronologie Atomwaffentests Nordkorea ENG

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is hosting the forum, has rejected demands for further sanctions, rebuffing Abe's assertion that sanctions will provide a solution to the crisis. Rather, offering an end to sanctions would be a better incentive for the North to end its weapons programs, he said.

"Without political and diplomatic tools, it is impossible to make headway in the current situation; to be more precise, it is impossible at all," Putin said.

The Russian president acknowleged that Pyongyang's nuclear program was a flagrant violation of UN resolutions, but added that the Kim regime sees its only means of self-defense. 

"It's impossible to scare them," Putin said, adding that Pyongyang would have to be convinced that it wouldn't be attacked once it gives up its weapons.

China is also reported to be reluctant to cut off key supplies to North Korea, fearing that it could trigger instability and an exodus of refugees on its border.

China opposes US missile launchers on its doorstep

China voiced its displeasure over plans to install US anti-ballistic missile defense systems, known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in Seongju, about 300 kilometers south of Seoul.

Read more: South Korea to bring back US tactical nuclear missiles?

The US has ratcheted up its military presence in the region in the wake of North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear tests, as well as the increasingly aggressive rhetoric between Kim and US President Donald Trump. 

Beijing's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday that the deployment of a THAAD system in Korea "would not solve security concerns" and would "seriously undermine the strategic balance of the region."

In Seongju, dozens of people were injured Wednesday after demonstrators clashed with authorities. Locals were protesting the deployment of THAAD launchers, arguing the US anti-missile defenses will turn the town into a primary target in the case of a North Korean strike.

China was North Korea's last major trading partner.

dm/ng (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)