Nuclear arms for peace?

North Korea’s nuclear weapons “ensure peace” on the Korean Peninsula by deterring attacks, a high-ranking North Korean official insisted on Thursday, despite global condemnation as the dictatorship steams ahead with its ambitious weapons programme.
Speaking at a forum attended by South Korean and Japanese leaders in the far-eastern Russian port city of Vladivostok, Kim Yong Jae, head of the North Korean delegation, blamed the United States for the recent escalation in tensions.
“We have got a powerful nuclear deterrent that provides us with an opportunity to counter hostile attacks in any part of the world, and ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” Kim said in comments carried by Russian state news agency TASS.
“The United States should by all means keep in mind the nuclear status of our country,” he added, accusing the US and its allies of engaging in a hostile campaign against North Korea.
Pyongyang cannot be intimidated with sanctions, the delegation leader said. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae In agreed during the forum to closely coordinate for new, tougher sanctions against the rogue state.
The two leaders said they would work together in pushing for a UN Security Council resolution to include “the most powerful sanctions so far, such as cutting off oil supplies,” Moon’s press secretary Yoon Young Chan told reporters, according to the Yonhap news agency.
Abe and Moon also agreed to ask China and Russia to support the sanctions. Russia and China have the closest diplomatic relations with the insular state of North Korea, but both have condemned the North’s recent weapons tests.
Despite the tensions, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed confidence that the conflict would not escalate into a nuclear war.
“All the parties will have enough common sense to understand their responsibility to the people of the region, so we will succeed in resolving the issue through diplomatic means,” Putin said, according to TASS.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Thursday that both sanctions and dialogue are key to solving the crisis, adding that China will support further decisions by the Council regarding North Korea’s nuclear and missile programme, according to Xinhua news agency. In Brussels, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she would propose to ministers from EU member states new action to counter a “different level of threat” from North Korea. — dpa