The situation with North Korea’s nuclear program should not serve as a pretext for the US to deploy a missile shield in the region, and Pyongyang should listen to UN Security Council demands and return to the negotiating table, the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers said at a joint news conference in Moscow Friday.
At the same time, Moscow and Beijing do not recognize North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
“We expect North Korea to make reasonable conclusions and listen to the demands of the United Nations Security Council, and return, after all, to the negotiation table within the framework of the joint declaration of the six-party participants made on September 19, 2005,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
Beijing also backs the renewal of six-party negotiations regarding Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, called for a complete stop to the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea, but said that fomenting tension in the region should be avoided.
“We stand firmly against the deployment of the [American] Thaad missile defense system to South Korea under the pretext of the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula,” the Chinese FM said. “We believe this to be directly damaging to Russian and Chinese strategic [national] security,” Wang Yi said.
Kim orders more nuclear tests
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watched a ballistic missile launch test and ordered the country to improve its nuclear attack capability by conducting more tests, the official KCNA news agency reported on Friday, Reuters reports.
The report did not say when the test took place but it was likely referring to North Korea’s launch of two short-range missiles on Thursday that flew 500 km (300 miles) and splashed into the sea.
“Dear comrade Kim Jong-un said work … must be strengthened to improve nuclear attack capability and issued combat tasks to continue nuclear explosion tests to assess the power of newly developed nuclear warheads and tests to improve nuclear attack capability,” KCNA said.
The North Korean leader was quoted in state media earlier in the week as saying his country had miniaturized nuclear warheads to mount on ballistic missiles.
Tensions have risen sharply on the Korean peninsula after the North conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and fired a long-range rocket last month leading to the U.N. Security Council to adopt a new sanctions resolution.
Conducting more nuclear tests would be in clear violation of U.N. sanctions which also ban ballistic missile tests, although Pyongyang has rejected them.
Pyongyang could sell nuke materials
While U.S. is skeptical of North Korea’s claim that it has miniaturized nuclear warheads, there is growing concern that Pyongyang could transfer nuclear technology or materials to other countries, VOA reports.
Nuclear experts at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies say North Korea has between 10 and 16 nuclear weapons and it could possess as many as 100 such weapons by 2020.
Leon Panetta, a former CIA director and former U.S. defense secretary, said Pyongyang’s nuclear transfer is a “very real concern.”
“What happened with a nuclear reactor that was built in Syria was largely done through technology from North Korea,” Panetta told VOA this week, referring to a secret nuclear reactor in Syria bombed by Israel in 2007.
Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair warned Pyongyang could be more tempted to sell its nuclear materials or technology to earn cash amid increased sanctions.
U.S. military analysts say Washington’s primary concern is whether Pyongyang has the capability to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could reach the U.S. mainland.
Admiral William Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, told a Senate committee Thursday it was “prudent” to assume Pyongyang had the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead and mount it on an ICBM that could reach the U.S.