|President Moon Jae-in, left, of South Korea and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Tuesday, at an economic summit meeting in Vladivostok, Russia. Mr. Moon asked Mr. Putin on Wednesday to support a proposed oil embargo on North Korea. Pool photo by Mikhail Klimentyev|
SEOUL, South Korea — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said his country opposed cutting off oil supplies to North Korea as part of new sanctions being considered in the wake of the country’s latest nuclear test, according to official accounts of his meeting Wednesday with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea.
The United States and its allies are pushing for a global embargo on oil exports to North Korea as the United Nations Security Council are debating a new round of sanctions against North Korea after its nuclear test on Sunday. Russia has veto power over any such sanctions being considered by the Security Council.
North Korea has been importing most of the oil it needs from China. But it has been trying to increase imports from Russia as an alternative source of badly needed energy for its military, as well as for its decrepit industries, amid signs that Beijing was growing impatient with its nuclear adventurism, according to South Korean analysts.
During a meeting on the sidelines of an economic summit conference in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok on Wednesday, Mr. Moon asked Mr. Putin to support the proposed oil embargo. But Mr. Putin said that sanctions and pressure would not persuade North Korea to give up nuclear weapons, said Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for Mr. Moon.
Stopping oil exports to the country would instead hurt ordinary North Koreans by disrupting hospitals and other civilian facilities, Mr. Yoon quoted Mr. Putin as saying. Mr. Putin said Russia exported less than 40,000 tons of oil a year to North Korea.
“Without political and diplomatic tools, it is impossible to make headway in the current situation; to be more precise, it is impossible,” Mr. Putin said during a joint news conference with Mr. Moon.
Despite his opposition to cutting off oil exports, Mr. Putin said North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests were a flagrant violation of United Nationsresolutions.
But “we should not act out of emotions and push North Korea into a dead end,” Mr. Putin said, according to dispatches from South Korean reporters. “We must act with calm and avoid steps that could raise tensions.”
Both Beijing and Moscow have agreed on increasingly tougher sanctionsagainst North Korea, most recently backing a Security Council ban of the country’s coal, iron, iron ore, lead and seafood exports. But the two countries opposed any measures that could destabilize North Korea, a stance Mr. Putin reaffirmed to Mr. Moon on Wednesday.
They said sanctions have so far done little to stop North Korea from increasing its nuclear and missile capabilities, and that the country remained determined to build a nuclear arsenal despite President Trump’s threatening to rain down “fire and fury” on the country.
Mr. Moon himself has been a proponent of dialogue with North Korea. But as North Korea has escalated tensions recently with a series of missile tests, he has pushed for tougher new sanctions, hoping that they would force North Korea to return to the negotiating table.
In his meeting with Mr. Moon, Mr. Putin called on the United States and South Korea to consider the “freeze-for-freeze” proposal from China and Russia in which Washington and Seoul would suspend their joint annual military exercises in exchange for a North Korean moratorium on missile and nuclear tests.
Washington and Seoul have rejected the idea out of hand, calling it tantamount to giving up legitimate defense exercises as a reward for halting the North’s weapons program, which is already banned by the United Nations.
”If North Korea does not stop provocations, the situation could become uncontrollable,” Mr. Moon said at the beginning of his meeting with Mr. Putin.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, a close United States ally against North Korea, is also attending the Vladivostok forum and is scheduled to meet with Mr. Putin on Thursday.
“We must make North Korea understand there is no bright future for the country if it pursues the current path,” Mr. Abe told reporters before his departure from Japan.
The test of what North Korea said was an advanced hydrogen bomb on Sunday was its largest nuclear blast by far.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry estimated the test unleashed 50 kilotons of explosive energy. But Japan’s defense minister, Itsunori Onodera, said his country upgraded its own assessment to 160 kilotons from 120 kilotons after the size of the earthquake the blast generated was revised to 6.1 magnitude.
Commercial satellite imagery taken after the Sunday test appears to show numerous landslides at the Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site in northeastern North Korea, according to the defense analysts Frank V. Pabian, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. and Jack Liu, who published a study of the blast on the website 38 North.
North Korea has remained defiant, hinting at more weapons tests.
”We will respond to the United States’ gangsterlike racket for sanctions and pressure in our own way,” an unidentified spokesman of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry told its official Korean Central News Agency on Tuesday. “The United States will have to bear full responsibility for the catastrophic consequences.”
The spokesman issued the warning in response to Washington’s campaign for tougher sanctions at the Security Council.
The Security Council has imposed eight rounds of increasingly harsh sanctions against North Korea since the country conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. North Korea has usually responded to the council’s sanctions resolutions with more weapons tests.
South Korean officials feared that the pattern would repeat itself in the coming days or weeks, as they said they had detected signs of North Korea preparing for more missile tests, including of its Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Last Tuesday, North Korea launched its Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan into the northern Pacific. At the time, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, warned that the world could expect more tests in the Pacific.
South Korean defense officials said that in its future tests, North Korea might launch its missiles farther into the Pacific, toward waters near Guamor even Alaska to display its weapons capabilities.