Further hardening his stance against North Korea, President Moon Jae-in said that it is time for the international community to consider cutting oil supplies to the defiant regime.
The remark came in a late-night phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, which capped a long day of trying to rally leaders of major powers against the North’s fast-advancing nuclear weapons program, while beefing up the South’s own military capabilities.
“It is time that measures for fundamentally cutting off North Korea’s foreign currency income and cutting off crude oil supply should be considered by the UN Security Council,” Moon was quoted as saying by his chief press officer Yoon Young-chan.
A man watches a television screen showing US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, Tuesday. (AP-Yonhap)
Moon’s remarks to Putin, which was not met by a direct answer, hints at Seoul’s desire to see a bigger role from Russia.
While China is thought to be Pyongyang’s main source of crude oil, Russia is a major trading partner. According to reports, North Korea-Russia trade, which mainly consists of fuel, doubled from a year ago to come in at over $31 million in the first quarter of the year. Russia, along with China, had also opposed clauses prohibiting North Korea from importing fuel in the US sanctions adopted in August.
Moon’s remarks regarding Pyongyang’s foreign income refers to North Korean workers sent abroad.
It is estimated that over 50,000 North Koreans are currently working abroad with much of their pay going to the Kim Jong-un regime.
While agreeing on the seriousness of the North Korean nuclear program, Putin did not directly address the possibilities raised by Moon, suggesting instead that they discuss the issue at upcoming summit talks.
Moon and Putin are set to hold their second summit talks on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, on Wednesday.
While in the country, Moon is also scheduled to meet with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe and expand on the “strong and real responses” the two agreed to bring against North Korea during their telephone conversation.
Ahead of the conversation with Putin, Moon spoke with US President Donald Trump, during which the Korean president elicited Washington’s agreement to give Seoul more room to strengthen its missile capabilities.
“As an effective response, (the leaders) agreed to lift the warhead weight limit,” the Cheong Wa Dae said in a statement.
Until now, South Korean missiles’ payload was limited to 500 kilograms, and Seoul had been negotiating to have the limit raised to 1 ton. Following Monday’s agreement, Seoul is allowed to develop missile warheads of any weight within its technological capabilities.
The range limit of 800 kilometers will not be affected by the changes.
President Moon Jae-in in his office (Yonhap)
According to Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Park Soo-hyun, Moon and Trump also agreed on the need to apply further pressure on Pyongyang, and the US leader reaffirmed the country’s policy of defending South Korea.
In the conversation, Moon also said that the temporary deployment of the US’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system would be completed quickly. Seoul’s Ministry of Environment recently concluded that THAAD system had negligible environmental effects. Four additional THAAD launchers are expected to be transported to the site in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, as early as this week.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com