Posts Tagged ‘United Nations Security Council’

China, Russia urge end to North Korea vicious cycle

September 19, 2017


© KCNA/AFP/File | North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting a launching drill of the medium-and-long range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 at an undisclosed location
NEW YORK (AFP) – The Chinese and Russian foreign ministers called for a peaceful end to the “vicious cycle” on the Korean peninsula as they met in New York for the UN General Assembly, Beijing said Tuesday.Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov urged all parties to seek a “peaceful resolution” to the current stand-off with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The Korean Peninsula nuclear problem must be solved through peaceful means,” it quoted Wang as saying, adding that “the current deepening vicious cycle must be broken”.

“Restoring peace talks is also a necessary step to carrying out the UN Security Council’s resolution,” he said.

Lavrov said Russia’s position on the issue is “completely identical” to China’s, the statement said.

Russia has joined China’s call for a “dual-track” approach in which North Korea suspends its weapons programme in return for the United States halting military drills in the region.

The White House said earlier that US President Donald Trump had spoken with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping over the phone, saying the two leaders were “committed to maximizing pressure on North Korea through vigorous enforcement of United Nations Security Council resolutions”.

Trump is currently in New York for the UN General Assembly but Xi — who has a major Communist Party congress next month that will cement his leadership for the next five years — is not attending the event.

The UN Security Council last week imposed a fresh set of sanctions, though Washington toned down its original proposals to secure support from China and Russia.

Regional tensions have soared this month as North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and staged an intermediate-range missile test over Japan.

Trump has not ruled out a military option for dealing with Pyongyang.

The US flew four F-35B stealth fighter jets and two B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula on Monday in a show of force.

Separately, China and Russia began a joint naval exercise east of the Korean peninsula.


EU Hardens Measures Against North Korea Over Weapons Tests

September 14, 2017

BRUSSELS — The European Union has strengthened its punitive measures against North Korea by bringing its regulations in line with sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council in August.

The move announced by EU headquarters Thursday follows the Security Council resolution of Aug. 5, which bans North Korea from exporting coal, iron, lead and seafood products estimated to be worth over $1 billion.

The aim is to pressure the regime of Kim Jong Un and deprive it of hard currencies needed to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

The U.N. resolution also bans countries from giving additional work permits to North Korean laborers, another source of money for Pyongyang.

A few hundred North Koreans now work in the EU, many of them in Poland.

North Korea Resumes Nuclear Weapons Work — “New activity at the Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site”

September 14, 2017

The Express

The country’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released pictures showing scientists leaving Pyongyang after a stay in the capital.In astonishing scenes thousands lined the streets to wave off weapons experts, as they were driven away in a massive convoy of coaches yesterday.

It comes as North Korea reacted with fury over the United Nations’ Security Council voting unanimously to step up sanctions against the rogue state, imposing a ban on the country’s textile exports and capping imports of crude oil in response to its sixth nuclear test on September 3.

North Korea news latest World War 3 missile nuclear test US Kim Jong un sanctionsGETTY/ APF

North Korea’s nuclear weapon developers seen waved off after a stay in Pyongyang

It was the ninth sanctions resolution unanimously adopted by the 15-member council since 2006 over North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the council after the vote: “The North Korean regime has not yet passed the point of no return.

“If it agrees to stop its nuclear programme, it can reclaim its future … If North Korea continues its dangerous path, we will continue with further pressure.”

North Korea news latest World War 3 missile nuclear test US Kim Jong un sanctionsAPF

Thousands of North Koreans lined the streets to wake off weapons experts

The world will witness how the DPRK tames the US gangsters

North Korea foreign ministry

After the announcement, Japan and South Korea said they are prepared to put more pressure if the rouge state refused to end its aggressive development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.But defiant North Korea has “categorically rejected” the resolution, warning the US it would soon face the “greatest pain” it had ever experienced.

North Korean Ambassador Han Tae Song told a conference today: “My delegation condemns in the strongest terms and categorically rejects the latest illegal and unlawful U.N. Security Council resolution.”The forthcoming measures by DPRK will make the US suffer the greatest pain it ever experienced in its history.”

He said North Korea’s ruling party the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was “ready to use a form of ultimate means”.

There are now fears Kim Jong-un could respond to the new sanctions with another missile launch or nuclear bomb, as North Korea has previously threatened the US will pay a “due price” for levying sanctions against them.

UN security council sanctions north koreaGETTY

North Korea news latest World War 3 missile nuclear test US Kim Jong un sanctions

The foreign ministry said in statement on Monday: “The world will witness how the DPRK tames the US gangsters by taking a series of actions tougher than they have ever envisaged.”However, China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi has called on North Korea to “take seriously the expectations and will of the international community” and stop its nuclear and ballistic missile development.

China and Russia have proposed a dual suspension of the rouge state’s nuclear and missile testing, and US and South Korean military exercises.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the Security Council: “We think it’s a big mistake to underestimate this Russia, China initiative.

“It remains on the table at the Security Council, and we will insist on it being considered.”

US President Donald Trump has also promised to not allow North Korea to develop nuclear missiles able to reach the US.

China Holds Back in Latest North Korea Sanctions — “If the latest measures prove ineffective, the chances of the U.S. taking unilateral actions to counter North Korea will increase.”

September 12, 2017

Beijing keeps oil lifeline to safeguard regime, preserve leverage over neighbor

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

File photo: Chinese paramilitary policemen build a fence or border wall near a concrete marker depicting the North Korean and Chinese national flags with the words “China North Korea Border” at a crossing in the Chinese border town of Tumen in eastern China’s Jilin province. December 2012 (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

BEIJING—China’s endorsement of new international sanctions against North Korea came with a heavy dose of caution as Beijing tries to stall its neighbor’s pursuit of nuclear arms without causing its collapse.

The United Nations Security Council agreed late Monday to curb key aspects of North Korean trade and income — including oil imports, textile exports and revenue from overseas workers — without imposing blanket bans that could choke off Pyongyang’s economic lifelines.

The U.S. initially asked for a complete oil embargo and asset and travel freezes targeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but eased those demands, diplomats said, to win support from China and Russia, which each wield veto power on the Security Council.

Watering down the sanctions helps China retain leverage over Pyongyang and avoid the collapse of a fellow socialist regime that would drive refugees across its border and bring U.S. troops closer.

“China wants to reserve some tools in its kitbox, to be used if North Korea carries out more provocative acts,” such as another nuclear test, said Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor at Renmin University in Beijing.

In agreeing to cap Pyongyang’s oil purchases, “China is offering some breathing space to North Korea, while signaling that harsher measures — like a total ban on oil imports — would follow should they conduct more nuclear tests,” Mr. Cheng said.

Monday’s resolution bans North Korea from importing natural gas, slashes its oil imports by 30% and caps its annual purchases of refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel at roughly 2 million barrels and crude oil at about 4 million barrels.

A proposed ban on North Korean expatriate workers, who are estimated to number 93,000 world-wide and contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue to Pyongyang, was amended to allow countries to employ North Koreans if deemed necessary for humanitarian reasons — a change that Chinese experts said was likely requested by Beijing.

The resolution also bans all textile trade with North Korea, which U.S. officials say earned $760 million for Pyongyang in 2016 and was the last major economic sector that hadn’t yet been targeted by U.N. sanctions.

“China is definitely leaving itself some leeway to show North Korea that it could go farther, but each additional sanctions resolution has a diminishing marginal return in terms of the signal sent,” said Justin Hastings, an associate professor at the University of Sydney and an expert on Pyongyang’s trade networks. “Without a strategic change in policy, China is likely to asymptotically approach cutting off North Korea entirely without ever actually getting there.”

China in February suspended North Korean coal imports for the rest of this year to enforce U.N. sanctions, and then in August said it would comply with additional U.N. measures by making the coal-import suspension permanent, while also banning inflows of North Korean iron and seafood.

These curbs made Chinese textile purchases a more important revenue source for Pyongyang. The value of Chinese textile imports from North Korea totaled $328.7 million from January to July, surpassing the $226.1 million North Korea earned from selling coal and other mineral fuel products to China over the same period, according to Chinese customs data.

China doesn’t publish data on North Korean workers in the country. In 2012, the North Korea Strategy Center, a Seoul-based nonprofit, estimated that about 7,000 to 8,000 North Koreans were working in Chinese restaurants and construction sites, while 40,000 more expected to take jobs in northeastern Chinese cities over the subsequent year or so.

The impact of the latest bans will be muted by gaps in sanctions enforcement, said Benjamin Silberstein, an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a Pennsylvania-based think tank.

“Much of North Korea’s oil imports already go unrecorded and happen through sources that lay outside of official trading frameworks,” Mr. Silberstein said. Furthermore, “North Korean society is already adapted to a reality where oil and fuel is very scarce,” he said.

The ban on textile exports can be circumvented by an already widespread practice of labeling the goods as Chinese-made, while curbs on North Korean overseas labor can be skirted under humanitarian exemptions, according to Mr. Silberstein.

“The notion that sanctions can coerce North Korea into giving up nuclear weapons is a misguided one,” said Zhang Liangui, a North Korea expert at the elite Central Party School in Beijing. “If the latest measures prove ineffective, the chances of the U.S. taking unilateral actions to counter North Korea will increase.”

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Tuesday said Beijing strictly enforces all U.N. resolutions, and reiterated calls for Washington and Seoul to avoid “actions that will further complicate the situation,” a phrase China has used to characterize U.S.-South Korea joint military drills.

On Monday, China’s central bank issued a directive instructing state-owned and commercial lenders to take steps to comply with all U.N. resolutions, including freezing accounts and blocking transactions linked to clients under sanction.

A number of Chinese state-owned banks have been blocking North Koreans from opening new accounts this year, according to bank employees based in cities near the North Korean border, who declined to say when the measures started.

A China Construction Bank representative said North Koreans have been blocked from withdrawing money, while an employee at Agricultural Bank of China said existing North Korean-owned accounts have been frozen.

Xiao Xiao and Liyan Qi contributed to this article.

Write to Chun Han Wong at

Oil Will Keep Flowing, but UN Sanctions Hit Pyongyang Hard — North Korean textile exports are prohibited — Some call the total package a “wrist slap”

September 12, 2017

TOKYO — North Korea will be feeling the pain of new United Nations sanctions targeting some of its biggest remaining foreign revenue streams. But the Security Council eased off the biggest target of all: the oil the North needs to stay alive, and to fuel its million-man military.

Though the United States had proposed a complete ban, the sanctions by the U.N. Security Council to punish North Korea for its sixth nuclear test cap Pyongyang’s annual imports of crude oil at the same level they have been for the past 12 months: an estimated 4 million barrels. Exports of North Korean textiles are prohibited, and other nations are barred from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers, putting a squeeze on two key sources of hard currency.

The measures were approved unanimously Monday.

Image result for oil in north korea, photos

The measures to punish Pyongyang for its Sept. 3 nuclear test also ban the country from importing natural gas liquids and condensates, and limit the import of refined petroleum products to 2 million barrels a year.

That could be a significant restriction.

According to Chinese customs data, North Korea imports nearly 2.2 million barrels a year in petroleum products, but some U.S. officials believe the true number is much higher: about 4.5 million barrels. So the 2 million barrel cap could be cutting existing imports 10 percent, or slashing them by more than half.

But how much impact the oil and fuel component of the sanctions will actually have — even if strictly enforced, which is always a concern — is an open question.

David von Hippel, an energy expert with the Nautilus Institute think tank who has done extensive research on North Korea, said he doubts that oil sanctions will hit the regime very hard.

“The textile sanctions actually might have more impact, as they are probably a good source of value-added income — value added by people you don’t have to pay much — for the regime,” he said. “But I’m not sure that they will really have much effect on the nuclear weapons and missile programs, given the priority that those initiatives must have for the DPRK leadership.”

DPRK is short for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Von Hippel co-authored a report for Nautilus earlier this month that found even a major reduction in Chinese oil exports to North Korea would likely have only a muted impact on military activities because Pyongyang can safely be assumed to have significant stockpiles of oil. The report estimated North Korea may have enough in reserve to supply its military for a year of normal operations or a month at a wartime pace.

There have been signs, including reduced supply and skyrocketing prices, that North Korea has already started diverting oil products away from gas stations and other consumer outlets.

Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist for IHS Markit, also said he expects that Pyongyang can weather the import reduction.

“The new U.N. sanctions on oil exports to North Korea are relatively moderate in scope compared to the original U.S. proposal regarding oil exports, and would be unlikely to have much impact on the operations of the North Korean military,” he said.

Biswas noted, however, that the situation with China remains both crucial and complicated.

Chinese gasoline exports to the North fell sharply — to just 120 tons in July, compared to 8,262 tons in June — following a decision by China’s state-owned oil company, China National Petroleum Corporation, to cut sales due to concerns that North Korea is too high a credit risk. At the same time, however, Chinese exports of diesel to North Korea increased from 367 tons in June to 1,162 tons in July.

One metric ton is roughly equal to roughly seven barrels of crude oil.

“The North Korean regime is still getting some fuel supplies from China, which can keep its most essential operations functioning,” he said.

Image result for china, oil, photos

For sure, the new measures will cause Pyongyang more economic pain. Textiles are one of North Korea’s major exports, with a total export value estimated at $750 million in 2016, and the tens of thousands of North Koreans working overseas send a significant portion of their earnings home to the regime. The measures also clamp down on joint ventures, which could stifle the North’s ability to trade and to acquire capital and know-how.

But what Washington failed to get was equally telling.

Along with settling for the compromise on oil, the U.S. unsuccessfully tried to get a travel ban and freezes on the assets of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Air Koryo, the North’s flagship airline. The U.S. proposed slashing projects employing North Korean workers abroad, but instead accepted sanctions aimed at gradually scaling them back.

Image result for Air Koryo, photos

The weakening of the sanctions reflects the longstanding rift between sanctions hawk Washington, and China and Russia, which advocate direct talks and more efforts to find a resolution through negotiations. The U.S. has rejected proposals from both countries that it stop joint military exercises with South Korea in exchange for a halt to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

Both Beijing and Moscow had strong words for Washington.

China’s U.N. ambassador urged the council to adopt the freeze-for-freeze proposal and urged the U.S. to pledge not to seek regime change or North Korea’s collapse. Russia’s envoy said Washington’s unwillingness to have U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres try to resolve the dispute “gives rise to very serious questions in our minds.”


Talmadge is the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter at Eric Talmadge and on Instagram @erictalmadge.

U.N. Security Council Adopts New Sanctions Against North Korea — No sanctions on Kim Jong Un, oil continues to flow — “But we did get a nice textile ban” — “This will encourage Iran”

September 12, 2017

Unanimous vote came after the U.S. rolled back its initial insistence on a complete oil embargo

Members of the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution on Monday that they said would reduce North Korea’s oil by 30%.
Members of the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution on Monday that they said would reduce North Korea’s oil by 30%.PHOTO: ANDREW GOMBERT/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

UNITED NATIONS—The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted new sanctions against North Korea on Monday after U.S. officials eased their demands to convince China and Russia to approve the measure.

The U.S., which drafted the initial resolution while pledging the harshest possible sanctions yet, rolled back its initial insistence on a complete oil embargo and asset and travel freezes targeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, diplomats said.

Despite the compromises, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said of the adopted resolution: “This will cut deep.”

“Today we are saying the world will never accept a nuclear armed North Korea,” she said, crediting the accord to the “strong relationship” between President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping.

“We are not looking for war. North Korea has not yet passed the point of no return,” Ms. Haley said.

Diplomats and North Korea watchers say while the new measures will add economic pressure they won’t force the regime to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

The resolution targets North Korea’s export economy, sanctioning 90% of its annual revenue, diplomats said.

It will reduce oil imports by North Korea by 30%, placing an annual cap of 2 million barrels on refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel and capping crude oil at about 4 million barrels, U.S. officials said. The U.N. measure also completely bans natural gas imports.

North Korea now imports a total of 8.5 million barrels of oil a year, mostly from China, said a U.S. official.

As tensions rise around the Korean peninsula, American leaders have been openly discussing what was once unthinkable: A military intervention in North Korea. If this were to happen, here’s how specialists on North Korean security see things playing out.

The resolution also imposes an embargo on all textile trade and requires inspections and monitoring of North Korea’s sea vessels by member states. But it stops short of providing for the use of military force to gain access to the ships. The textile industry, the last big economic sector that hadn’t yet been targeted in North Korea, accounted for $760 million in 2016 revenue, U.S. officials said.

A proposed ban on North Korean foreign workers, a source of hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue to the regime, was reworded to allow countries to employ North Korean nationals if deemed vital for humanitarian reasons. Current contracts on the workers, estimated to number around 93,000 from Russia to Africa, will be phased out and not renewed, diplomats said.

China and Russia, economic and political allies of North Korea who both hold U.N. Security Council veto power, said they endorsed the new sanctions because of Pyongyang’s repeated violations of Council resolutions banning it from conducting nuclear and ballistic missile tests. But they both also criticized the U.S. and allies for not having a clear path toward diplomatic negotiations with North Korea and the ratcheting up rhetoric on military action.

“We hope that the U.S. will not seek regime change in North Korea,” the “collapse of North Korea,” or send its military into the country, said China’s Ambassador Liu Jieyi.

China is reluctant to pressure the North Korean regime to the brink of collapse fearing instability at its border, a flow of refugees and a possible American military presence. Russia and China have both said they favor direct talks and not sanctions.

Russia and China renewed their calls for North Korea to suspend nuclear and military tests in exchange for U.S. halting its military exercises on the Korean Peninsula and dismantling an American missile-defense system in South Korea known as Thaad.

“We think it’s a big mistake to underestimate this Russia and China initiative,” said Russia’s Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia. “It remains on the table at Security Council and we insist on it being considered.”

The U.S. has dismissed this proposal before. Ms. Haley recently called it “insulting” because she said it implied a moral equivalence between the U.S. and North Korea.

Many U.N. diplomats had considered a unanimous Security Council vote against North Korea as politically more important than a strong U.S. stand that risked division, diplomats said.

United Nations U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley addressed a U.N. Security Council meeting on North Korea on Monday.
United Nations U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley addressed a U.N. Security Council meeting on North Korea on Monday. PHOTO: BEBETO MATTHEWS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

“Any perception of weakness on the side of the Security Council would only encourage the regime to continue its provocations and objectively create the risk of an increasingly extreme situation,” said France’s Ambassador François Delattre.

After the vote, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe praised the resolution, saying it “raises the pressure on North Korea to an unprecedented new level and expresses the clear will of the international community that we must change the policies of North Korea.”

North Korea this month conducted its sixth nuclear-weapons test and asserted that it had acquired the capacity to mount a hydrogen bomb on an intercontinental ballistic missile. Ms. Haley had warned that Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital city, was “begging for war” and spearheaded a fast-paced diplomatic response by pushing for U.N. action with a one-week timetable.

North Korea issued a statement on its official KCNA news agency on Monday warning that if the “illegal and unlawful” sanctions resolution passed, Pyongyang would inflict “the greatest pain and suffering” on the U.S.

“In case the U.S. eventually does rig up the illegal and unlawful ‘resolution’ on harsher sanctions, the DPRK [North Korea] shall make absolutely sure that the U.S. pays due price,” the spokesman of the country’s Foreign Ministry said.

Write to Farnaz Fassihi at

Appeared in the September 12, 2017, print edition as ‘U.N. Tightens Sanctions on North Korea.’


Palestinians Say Comments by U.S. Ambassador to Israel Are “Unacceptable”

September 6, 2017


© POOL/AFP | US ambassador to Israel David Friedman (L) speaks while his wife Tammy (2L), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2R) and his wife Sarah sit on stage during a Fourth of July Independence Day celebration

JERUSALEM (AFP) – The Palestinians have attacked “unacceptable” comments made by the US ambassador to Israel after he referred to the “alleged occupation” of the Palestinian territories.

In a letter sent to diplomats, a copy of which was seen by AFP, Saeb Erakat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Israel had accelerated settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Such actions and practices could not have taken place without the complicity of the international community,” the letter added.

It said comments by US ambassador David Friedman to the Jerusalem Post last week in which he referred to the “alleged occupation” amounted to tacit endorsement.

“We consider the statement of the US ambassador to Tel Aviv, Mr David Friedman, referring to the above mentioned situation as ‘alleged occupation’ as unacceptable,” the letter added.

A US official told AFP that the comment “does not represent a shift in US policy”.

President Donald Trump is currently seeking to restart frozen peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and the official said the president remained committed to a lasting peace agreement.

The Palestinians have grown increasingly concerned by Trump’s team, including Friedman, who have yet to publicly commit to the idea of an independent Palestinian state.

Friedman, who was Trump’s personal lawyer before becoming ambassador, has been criticised by the Palestinians for his support for settlements in the occupied West Bank.

In May, he visited a settlement for a wedding, the US embassy confirmed, breaking with years of State Department policy that ambassadors only visit them in exceptional circumstances.

Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, in a move never recognised by the international community, and more than 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in the areas.

In December, the United Nations Security Council declared all such settlements illegal, and they are seen as one of the largest obstacles to peace.

Israel rejects this and blames Palestinian incitement and intransigence for the deadlock.

The United States has long considered settlements “illegitimate” but it has restrained its criticism since Trump came to power promising to lead the most pro-Israel government in history the administration.

North Korea tests nuclear bomb it says can be made into warhead for long-range missile

September 3, 2017

China strongly condemns the test, while US President Donald Trump says ‘appeasement will not work’ with ‘rogue nation’

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 11:50am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 8:09pm
 North Korea detonated a hydrogen bomb with “perfect success”, its state media said on Sunday, adding that the device was capable of being loaded onto its long-range missiles.

Hours after the North’s sixth nuclear detonation, an announcer on its official Korean Central Television declared: “The hydrogen bomb test was a perfect success.”

Earlier monitors measured a 6.3-magnitude tremor near its main testing site, which South Korean experts reportedly said was nearly 10 times more powerful than the 10-kiloton test carried out a year ago.

US President Donald Trump called North Korea’s actions “very hostile and dangerous” in a series of tweets.

“North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test,” Trump wrote. “Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.”

Trump said the latest nuclear test was an embarrassment for China and proved that South Korea’s “talk of appeasement” was a waste of time.

North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States…..

..North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.

South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for the “strongest punishment” against North Korea while China and Russia both strongly condemned the test.

China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that China “expresses its firm opposition (to the test) and strongly condemns it.”

North Korea “has ignored the international community’s widespread opposition, again carrying out a nuclear test. China’s government expresses resolute opposition and strong condemnation toward this,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.

The explosion came as the five BRICS nations hold their annual summit in Chinaunder the shadow of growing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

BRICS countries are China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa.

Hydrogen bombs – also known as thermonuclear devices – are far more powerful than the relatively simple atomic weapons the North was believed to have tested so far.

Analysts’ initial estimates of the yield from Sunday’s test varied, ranging from 100 kilotons up to one megaton.

Either way, said Jeffrey Lewis of the armscontrolwonk website on Twitter, it was “a staged thermonuclear weapon” which represents a significant advance in its weapons programme.

Chinese monitors said they had detected a second quake soon afterwards of 4.6 magnitude that could be due to a “collapse (cave in)”, suggesting the rock over the underground blast had given way.

Pyongyang has long sought the means to deliver an atomic warhead to the United States, its sworn enemy. A new test would be certain to infuriate Washington, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and others.

Tokyo said the tremor was a nuclear blast, which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had said would be “absolutely unacceptable.”

 A satellite image taken on April 12, 2017 of North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site. Photo: AFP

South Korean leader Moon called for “all diplomatic measures including UNSC sanctions resolutions to completely isolate North Korea”, presidential security adviser Chung Eui-Yong said after an emergency National Security Council meeting.

The South would discuss deploying “the strongest strategic assets of the US military”, he cited Moon as saying – potentially a reference to tactical nuclear weapons which were withdrawn by Washington in 1991.

Pyongyang triggered a new ramping up of tensions in July, when it carried out two successful tests of an ICBM, the Hwasong-14, which apparently brought much of the US mainland within range.

It has since threatened to send a salvo of rockets towards the US territory of Guam, and last week fired a missile over Japan and into the Pacific, the first time it has ever acknowledged doing so.

The move is a direct challenge to US President Donald Trump, who hours earlier had talked by phone with Abe about the “escalating” nuclear crisis in the region.

Trump has warned Pyongyang that it faces “fire and fury”, and that Washington’s weapons are “locked and loaded”.

Analysts believe Pyongyang has been developing its weapons to give it a stronger hand in any negotiations with the US.

“North Korea will continue with their nuclear weapons programme unless the US proposes talks,” Koo Kab-woo of Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies said.

He pointed to that Pakistan – whose nuclear programme is believed to have links with the North’s – conducted six nuclear tests in total, and may not have seen a need for any further blasts.

“If we look at it from Pakistan’s example, the North might be in the final stages” of becoming a nuclear state, he said.

 Before the quake the official Korean Central News Agency said that leader Kim Jong-un had inspected a miniaturised hydrogen bomb that could be fitted onto an ICBM at the Nuclear Weapons Institute. Photo: Reuters

Before the quake the official Korean Central News Agency said that leader Kim Jong-un had inspected a miniaturised hydrogen bomb that could be fitted onto an ICBM at the Nuclear Weapons Institute.

It was a “thermonuclear weapon with super explosive power made by our own efforts and technology”, KCNA cited Kim as saying, and “all components of the hydrogen bomb were 100 per cent domestically made”.

Pictures showed Kim in black suit examining a metal casing, with a shape akin to a peanut shell.

Actually mounting a warhead onto a missile would amount to a significant escalation on the North’s part, as it would create a risk that it was preparing an attack.

The North carried out its first nuclear test in 2006, and successive blasts are believed to have been aimed at refining designs and reliability as well as increasing yield.

Its fifth detonation, in September last year, caused a 5.3 magnitude quake and according to Seoul had a 10-kiloton yield – still less than the 15-kiloton US device which destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

The North Korean leadership says a credible nuclear deterrent is critical to the nation’s survival, claiming it is under constant threat from an aggressive United States.

It has been subjected to seven rounds of United Nations Security Council sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, but always insists it will continue to pursue them.

Atomic bombs work on the principle of nuclear fission, where energy is released by splitting atoms of enriched uranium or plutonium encased in the warhead.

Hydrogen or H-bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons, work on fusion and are far more powerful, with a nuclear blast taking place first to create the intense temperatures required.

In Sunday’s announcement before the earthquake, KCNA said the North’s hydrogen bomb had “explosive power that can be adjusted from tens to hundreds of kilotons depending on the target”.

No hydrogen bomb has ever been used in combat, but they make up most of the world’s nuclear arsenals.

Previous recent tremors in the region have been caused by nuclear tests.

The China Earthquake Networks Centre reported the measurement of the first seismic event was 6.3 magnitude with the depth of its epicentre at zero km. It noted that it might have been caused by explosion.

How to Resolve the North Korea Crisis

August 13, 2017

An understanding between the U.S. and Beijing is the essential prerequisite. Tokyo and Seoul also have key roles to play.


People in Tokyo walk past a screen showing news on North Korea, Aug. 10.
People in Tokyo walk past a screen showing news on North Korea, Aug. 10. PHOTO: REUTERS

Aug. 11, 2017 6:08 p.m. ET

For more than 30 years, the world’s response to North Korea’s nuclear program has combined condemnation with procrastination. Pyongyang’s reckless conduct is deplored. Warnings are issued that its evolution toward weaponization will prove unacceptable. Yet its nuclear program has only accelerated.

The Aug. 5 sanctions resolution passed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council marked a major step forward. Still, an agreed objective remains to be established. But the North Korean success in testing a prototype intercontinental ballistic missile eliminates the scope for further equivocation. If Kim Jong Un maintains a nuclear program against the opposition of China and the U.S. and a unanimous Security Council resolution, it will alter the geostrategic relationship among the principal players. If Pyongyang develops a full-scale nuclear capacity while the world dithers, it will seriously diminish the credibility of the American nuclear umbrella in Asia, especially for our allies in Tokyo and Seoul.

The long-term challenge reaches beyond the threat to American territory to the prospect of nuclear chaos. An operational North Korean ICBM arsenal is still some time away given the need to miniaturize warheads, attach them to missiles, and produce them in numbers. But Asia’s nations are already under threat from North Korea’s existing short- and intermediate-range missiles. As this threat compounds, the incentive for countries like Vietnam, South Korea and Japan to defend themselves with their own nuclear weapons will grow dramatically—an ominous turn for the region and the world. Reversing the progress Pyongyang has already made is as crucial as preventing its further advancement.

American as well as multilateral diplomacy on North Korea has been unsuccessful, owing to an inability to merge the key players’ objectives—especially those of China and the U.S.—into an operational consensus. American demands for an end to the North Korean nuclear program have proved unavailing. U.S. leaders, including in the military, have been reluctant to use force; Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has described the prospect of a war over Korea as “catastrophic.” Thousands of artillery tubes entrenched within range of the South Korean capital demonstrate Pyongyang’s strategy of holding hostage greater Seoul’s population of 30 million.

Unilateral pre-emptive military action by the U.S. would involve a risk of conflict with China. Beijing, even if it temporarily acquiesced, would not long abide an American strategy of determining by itself outcomes at the very edge of China’s heartland, as its intervention in the Korean War of the 1950s demonstrated. The use of military force must be carefully analyzed, and its vocabulary must be restrained. But it cannot be precluded.

Considerations such as these have caused the administration’s attempt to enlist China in a diplomatic effort to press Korea toward denuclearization. These efforts so far have had only partial success. China shares the American concern regarding nuclear proliferation; it is in fact the country most immediately affected by it. But while America has been explicit about the goal, it has been less willing to confront its political consequences. Given North Korea’s enormous and disproportionate allocation of national resources to its nuclear-weapons program, abandoning or substantially curtailing it would produce a political upheaval, perhaps even regime change.

China surely understands this. Therefore one of the most conspicuous events of current diplomacy is Beijing’s support in principle of North Korean denuclearization. At the same time, the prospect of disintegration or chaos in North Korea evokes at least two major concerns in China. The first is the political and social effects of a North Korean internal crisis on China itself, re-enacting events familiar from millennia of Chinese history. The second involves security in Northeast Asia. China’s incentive to help implement denuclearization will be to impose comparable restraints on all of Korea. To be sure, South Korea has no visible nuclear program or announced plans for it, but an international proscription is another matter.

China would also have a stake in the political evolution of North Korea following denuclearization, whether it be a two-state solution or unification, and in restrictions on military deployment placed on North Korea. Heretofore, the administration has urged China to press North Korea as a kind of subcontractor to achieve American objectives. The better—probably only feasible—approach is to merge the two efforts and develop a common position jointly pursued with the other countries involved.

Statements defining the U.S. goal as bringing Pyongyang to the conference table reflect the assumption that negotiations are their own objective, operating according to their own momentum, separate from the pressures that brought them about and are needed to sustain them. But American diplomacy will, in the end, be judged by the outcome, not the process. Repeated assurances that the U.S. seeks no unilateral advantage are not sufficient for countries that believe the Asian security structure is at risk.

So which parties should negotiate, and over what? An understanding between Washington and Beijing is the essential prerequisite for the denuclearization of Korea. By an ironic evolution, China at this point may have an even greater interest than the U.S. in forestalling the nuclearization of Asia. Beijing runs the risk of deteriorating relations with America if it gets blamed for insufficient pressure on Pyongyang. Since denuclearization requires sustained cooperation, it cannot be achieved by economic pressure. It requires a corollary U.S.-Chinese understanding on the aftermath, specifically about North Korea’s political evolution and deployment restraints on its territory. Such an understanding should not alter existing alliance relationships.

Paradoxical as it may seem in light of a half-century of history, such an understanding is probably the best way to break the Korean deadlock. A joint statement of objectives and implicit actions would bring home to Pyongyang its isolation and provide a basis for the international guarantee essential to safeguard its outcome.

Seoul and Tokyo must play a key role in this process. No country is more organically involved than South Korea. It must have, by geography and alliance relationship, a crucial voice in the political outcome. It would be the most directly affected by a diplomatic solution and the most menaced by military contingencies. It is one thing for American and other leaders to proclaim that they would not take advantage of North Korea’s denuclearization. Seoul is certain to insist on a more embracing and formal concept.

Similarly, Japan’s history has been linked with Korea’s for millennia. Tokyo’s concept of security will not tolerate indefinitely a nuclear Korea without a nuclear capability of its own. Its evaluation of the American alliance will be importantly influenced by the degree to which the U.S. management of the crisis takes Japanese concerns into account.

The alternative route of a direct U.S. negotiation with Pyongyang tempts some. But it would leave us a partner that can have only a minimum interest in implementation and a maximum interest in playing China and the U.S. off against each other. An understanding with China is needed for maximum pressure and workable guarantees. Instead, Pyongyang could best be represented at a culminating international conference.

There have been suggestions that a freeze of testing could provide an interim solution leading to eventual denuclearization. This would repeat the mistake of the Iranian agreement: seeking to solve a geostrategic problem by constraining the technical side alone. It would provide infinite pretexts for procrastination while “freeze” is defined and inspection mechanisms are developed.

Pyongyang must not be left with the impression that it can trade time for procedure and envelop purpose in tactics as a way to stall and thus fulfill its long-held aspirations. A staged process may be worth considering, but only if it substantially reduces the Korean nuclear capacity and research program in the short term.

A North Korea retaining an interim weapons capability would institutionalize permanent risks:

• that a penurious Pyongyang might sell nuclear technology;

• that American efforts may be perceived as concentrating on protecting its own territory, while leaving the rest of Asia exposed to nuclear blackmail;

• that other countries may pursue nuclear deterrent against Pyongyang, one another or, in time, the U.S.;

• that frustration with the outcome will take the form of mounting conflict with China;

• that proliferation may accelerate in other regions;

• that the American domestic debate may become more divisive.

Substantial progress toward denuclearization—and its attainment in a brief period—is the most prudent course.

Mr. Kissinger served as secretary of state and national security adviser in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

Appeared in the August 12, 2017, print edition.


New North Korea Sanctions Are in a Race With Pyongyang’s Missile Development

August 7, 2017

U.N. Security Council action aims to close loopholes, but many Asian nations have ties to Pyongyang

Image may contain: 2 people, suit

© POOL/AFP | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi supported a tough stance on Pyongyang’s arsenal


Updated Aug. 6, 2017 9:42 p.m. ET

MANILA—The United Nations Security Council passed the toughest-ever economic sanctions against North Korea over the weekend. Now comes the hard part: making them stick, and fast.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met here Sunday with counterparts from China, Russia, and a host of Asian countries as he sought to build momentum to isolate North Korea. He described the sanctions as “a good outcome.”


Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who met Sunday in Manila with his North Korean counterpart, said Beijing has urged Pyongyang “to stop the missile tests and even nuclear research which violate U.N. Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the international community.”

There is one major obstacle, however: Time is running out. The most recent missile launched by the regime at the end of July would be able to fly more than 6,400 miles, according to one analysis, putting Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago within range. Some experts believe North Korea could develop a nuclear missile capable of handling atmospheric re-entry as early as next year.

“The problem with sanctions alone is that we don’t have that kind of time,” said Leon Sigal, director of the New York-based Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project, pointing to lags between when sanctions are implemented and enforced and when the economic effects are felt. “They’re very close to an ICBM.”

The Security Council has passed eight rounds of sanctions since 2006, when North Korea performed its first nuclear test. The sanctions hurt the secretive regime economically but failed to deter Pyongyang from working to become a nuclear power.

The latest sanctions, passed unanimously with the support of China, North Korea’s biggest economic partner, are meant to close loopholes around the world that have allowed the rogue regime to cultivate trade, financing and labor ties to support its nuclear programs.

China in a statement Sunday called the sanctions necessary. Beijing accounts for 90% of the North Korean regime’s trade, according to various estimates.

In the meeting with China on Sunday, North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, restated Pyongyang’s position on nuclear policy, said Mr. Wang, the Chinese foreign minister, without elaborating. North Korea has previously refused to disarm, arguing that its nuclear capability is a deterrent to protect it from foreign aggression.

North Korean officials were unavailable for comment. Mr. Ri will have a chance to speak Monday to the 27 members of the Asean Regional Forum gathered in Manila for the security meetings.

R.C. Hammond, Tillerson’s communications adviser, told reporters that the Chinese meeting made clear to the North Koreans “what they need to do to demonstrate to the world they understand and would like to discuss a new role for North Korea in the global community.”

The new sanctions ban trade in coal with North Korea and bar countries from employing North Korean laborers and entering into joint ventures with Pyongyang. U.S. officials say the sanctions could cut a third, or $1 billion, from North Korea’s foreign revenue.

“I think the efforts to isolate [North Korea] are already working, even with the previous sanctions in place. The problem is that they have not brought the ‘desired effect’ — which should be progress in the denuclearization,” said Oh Joon, a professor at Kyung Hee University in Seoul and a former South Korean ambassador to the U.N.

The U.S. faces resistance in Asia, where countries have business ties with North Korea dating back decades and experts say that many companies and individuals profit from hard-to-detect financing of trade. The biggest challenge is China, experts say, which hasn’t fully enforced past sanctions, chiefly because it is concerned that if the Pyongyang regime collapses a conflict could draw U.S. troops near the Chinese border or send droves of North Korean refugees across its border.

China has said in the past it complies fully with U.N. sanctions on North Korea but opposes U.S. unilateral sanctions.

China’s trade with North Korea rose 10.5% in the first half of this year as part of its normal economic relationship not covered by sanctions, Chinese trade data show.

“Beijing’s reluctance to implement U.N. sanctions is further enabling Pyongyang to sprint down the weapons path,” said Duyeon Kim, a visiting senior fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul. “China knows it can squeeze the North enough without the collapse that it fears, but Beijing chooses not to because of its own strategic interests.”

U.S. presidents have implored China to crack down on North Korea. Former President Barack Obama called on China to put pressure on the regime to abandon its nuclear missile program, while President Donald Trump has accused China of not doing enough.

On Sunday, Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary for the State Department Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said in Manila that the U.S. would focus on China’s implementation to keep measures from “slipping back,” as she said they had in the past.

Elsewhere in the region, the U.S. faces other diplomatic challenges reining in Pyongyang, in part because policing sanctions is expensive.

“Very rigorously enforcing sanctions has significant costs for the enforcer, and Southeast Asian countries are not generally willing to bear those costs,” said Justin Hastings, professor of international relations at the University of Sydney.

In addition, some nations say they prefer to engage diplomatically with North Korea rather than isolate the regime as the U.S. has argued for.

A Japanese foreign ministry spokesman said Sunday that “now is not the time for dialogue but the time to increase effective pressure on North Korea, so that they will take concrete actions toward denuclearization.”

Others took a different tack. “I think it’s better that people talk,” Philippine foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Friday. “The less we talk, the more grave the situation can become.”

Several countries in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, host North Korean embassies and some ties will be hard to unravel. Thailand was North Korea’s third-largest import partner in 2015.

Malaysia has historically close ties to North Korea and until early this year was one of only a handful of nations to allow North Koreans to travel visa-free. That relationship deteriorated in February after the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was killed in a Kuala Lumpur airport in an operation that South Korean officials believe was orchestrated by Pyongyang. North Korea has denied any connection with the killing.

–Jonathan Cheng in Hong Kong, Patrick McDowell in Jakarta and Eva Dou in Beijing contributed to this article.

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