Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, said on Tuesday that US-led calls for harsher sanctions on North Korea were futile and warned that military escalation could lead to a global catastrophe, arguing that Pyongyang rightfully fears for its security.
Mr Putin called North Korea’s nuclear test on Sunday “provocative” but said Kim Jong-un “definitely won’t forget” the US-led military actions in Libya and Iraq.
Saddam Hussein gave up his weapons of mass destruction only to be hanged after the US invasion, he said.
“The use of any kind of sanctions in this situation is already useless and ineffective,” Mr Putin said. “They will eat grass but they won’t give up (the nuclear) programme if they don’t feel safe.”
Mr Putin’s comments came as concern grew that the North was planning to carry out another weapons test – possibly the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile to mark the anniversary of its founding this Saturday.
North Korea nuclear grid
Defence officials in Seoul confirmed that a launch was likely after local media reported that a missile had been moved into position on the North’s west coast overnight on Monday.
France’s defence minister said on Tuesday that North Korea could develop ballistic missiles able to strike targets in Europe sooner than expected.
In a phone call with Mr Trump on Tuesday Theresa May agreed with the president on the need to increase pressure on China “to ensure North Korea stopped conducting these illegal acts”, Downing Street said.
South Korea responded with its second show of force in two days, dispatching warships to conduct live-fire drills. More naval drills are expected this week, the defence ministry said.
Military chiefs in the South also appear to have secured an agreement from the US to increase the warhead weight limits on their maximum-range missiles.
Mr Putin pushed back against this “military hysteria” as the way to a “global planetary catastrophe,” calling instead for a renewal of dialogue without any “threat of (North Korea’s) destruction”.
China, meanwhile, has been censoring its media and Internet to stifle alarmist talk relating to North Korea’s nuclear test.
Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, is keen to ensure stability in the run up to the Communist Party’s crucial Party Congress next month, while propaganda chiefs are keen for…