US, NKorea envoys quarrel at UN arms forum as Russia, China sanctioned

UPDATE 2 — 8/24, 3:13 p.m. EDT: Russia’s defense ministry has announced that Russian bomber planes flew close to the Korean Peninsula Wednesday over international waters, including the Pacific, Japan, Yellow and East China seas, while the U.S. and South Korea conducted joint military drills which the Kremlin opposes.

“The U.S. and South Korea holding yet more large-scale military and naval exercises does not help reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” said a ministry spokesperson. “Given the arms build-up in the region, any rash move or even an unintended incident could spark a military conflict.”

The scheduled military exercises started on Monday, but Russian planes were not expected in the region, causing the South Korea and Japan to call upon their own military planes at the last minute to escort them.

 

 

UPDATE — 8/23, 1:25 p.m. EDT: The foreign ministries of both Russia and China spoke out in separate statements Wednesday against UN and U.S. sanctions related to North Korea.

Specifically, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov condemned Washington’s economic penalties leveled against Pyongyang, saying such sanctions have already been “exhausted” and are “absolute and boundless”.

Similarly, China spokeswoman Hua Chunying described U.S. sanctions against Chinese companies as “long-arm jurisdiction”.

Russia and China have both called for the U.S. to cease cooperative military drills with South Korea and for North Korea to cease the development of nuclear weapons.

 

Claiming North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is defensive in nature, the rogue state’s top diplomat to the United Nations told a Conference on Disarmament in Geneva it would never negotiate over its nuclear weapons program.

Ju Yong-chol, North Korea’s ambassador to the UN, referred to its nuclear stockpile a “necessary deterrent” to U.S. provocations.

“The measures taken by the DPRK to strengthen its nuclear deterrence and develop intercontinental rockets is justifiable and a legitimate option for self-defense in the face of such apparent and real threats,” Ju told representatives gathered at the summit.

Describing the U.S. position on Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions as a defense against potential aggression, U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood, also in attendance, said America would employ a “full range of (military) capabilities” to a North Korean first strike if necessary.

Reminding Ju the alternative to diplomacy was to persist as an outcast, and outlining what Washington says are North Korea’s “grave threats to the entire world,” Wood told the conference the “path to dialogue still remained an option” for Pyongyang.

The heated exchange between American and North Korean representatives occurred the same U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson softened the tone and appeared to extend an offer of talks to resolve the crisis which has continued to rattle the Korean peninsula.

Praising North Korea for illustrating self-discipline and avoiding inflammatory threats, Tillerson said a negotiated path remains an option.

 “We hope that this is the beginning of this signal that we’ve been looking for – that they are ready to restrain their level of tensions, they’re ready to restrain their provocative acts, and that perhaps we are seeing our pathway to sometime in the near future having some dialogue,” Tillerson told reporters at the State Department.

As diplomats squared off in Geneva and Tillerson announced diplomatic opportunities remained under consideration, U.S. the State Department imposed new penalties on Chinese and Russian firms and individuals for their association with Pyongyang’s nuclear-missile program.

On Tuesday, the Office of Foreign Assets Control accused Chinese and Russian firms and individuals of “defying sanctions” and contributing to North Korea’s nuclear weapon program.  Sanctions targeting 16 entities went into effect immediately, some of which deal in selling North Korea natural resources such as oil, coal and minerals.

“(The sanctions are) really forcing firms to decide are you going to deal with these shady North Korea financial institutions or firms or do you care more about having access to the U.S. market,” Asian economics expert Kent Boydston told NPR.

 

[Reuters] [South China Morning Post] [AP] [Photo courtesy Reuters/KCNA via Business Insider]