BEIJING (Reuters) – China and Russia began naval drills near North Korea on Monday amid continuing tensions over the isolated state’s nuclear ambitions and ahead of a United Nations General Assembly meeting this week, where North Korea is likely to loom large.
North Korea launched a missile over Japan last Friday, its second in the past three weeks, and conducted its sixth and by far most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, in defiance of international pressure.
The official Xinhua news agency said the joint exercises will take place between Peter the Great Bay, just outside of the Russian far eastern port of Vladivostok, not far from the Russia-North Korea border, and into the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, to the north of Japan.
The drills are the second part of China-Russian naval exercises this year, the first part of which took place in the Baltic in July. The report did not directly link the drills to current tensions over North Korea.
Both China and Russia have repeatedly called for a peaceful solution and talks to resolve the issue.
The international community must remain united and enforce sanctions against North Korea after its repeated launch of ballistic missiles, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in an editorial published in the New York Times on Sunday.
Such tests are in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and show that North Korea can now target the United States or Europe, Abe said.
Diplomacy and dialogue will not work with North Korea and concerted pressure by the entire international community is essential to tackle the threats posed by North Korea, Abe wrote.
A week ago, the 15-member U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted its ninth sanctions resolution since 2006 over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
On Monday, the official China Daily said sanctions should be given time to bite but that the door must be left open to talks.
“With its Friday missile launch, Pyongyang wanted to give the impression that sanctions will not work. Some people have fallen for that and immediately echoed the suggestion, pointing to the failure of past sanctions to achieve their purpose,” it said in an editorial.
“But that past sanctions did not work does not mean they will not. It is too early to claim failure because the latest sanctions have hardly begun to take effect. Giving the sanctions time to bite is the best way to make Pyongyang reconsider.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Sunday the U.N. Security Council has run out of options on containing North Korea’s nuclear programme and the United States may have to turn the matter over to the Pentagon.
China has urged the United States to refrain from making threats to North Korea. Asked about President Donald Trump’s warning last month that the North Korean threat to the United States will be met with “fire and fury,” Haley said, “It was not an empty threat.”
Pyongyang has launched dozens of missiles as it accelerates a weapons programme designed to provide the ability to target the United States with a powerful, nuclear-tipped missile.
North Korea said on Saturday it aimed to reach an “equilibrium” of military force with the United States.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry
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