China and Russia on September 15 rejected a call from the United States to take more "direct actions" to deter North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, and said it is up to Washington to defuse the threat through negotiations.
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said Russia will enforce sanctions imposed on Pyongyang this week by the UN Security Council, but go no further than that.
Speaking after a Council meeting at which it condemned North Korea's latest ballistic missile test earlier in the day, Nebenzya said that the UN sanctions resolution also called for negotiations with North Korea to resolve the standoff, and Washington must now honor that call.
“We called on our U.S. partners and others to implement political and diplomatic solutions that are provided for in the resolution,” he said. “Without implementing this, we also will consider it as a non-compliance with the resolution.”
Nebenzya repeated Moscow's call for support of a Russian-Chinese plan for striking up a dialogue with Pyongyang which U.S. officials have dismissed in the past.
The Kremlin said earlier in the day that Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron by phone and they agreed that the crisis requires resolution "exclusively through political and diplomatic means, by restarting direct negotiations."
China's Ambassador to the United States had a similiar message after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on September 14 called for more "direct actions" by Beijing and Moscow against North Korea.
"Honestly, I think the United States should be doing..much more than now, so that there's real effective international cooperation on this issue," Ambassador Cui Tiankai told reporters at the Chinese Embassy in Washington on September 15.
"They should refrain from issuing more threats. They should do more to find effective ways to resume dialogue and negotiation," he said.
Tillerson had called for more action by China and Russia after North Korea's latest missile launch early on September 15, which South Korea and Japan said flew far enough to reach the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, although it was not aimed at Guam and fell into the Pacific Ocean after flying over Japan's northern island of Hokkaido.
"China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labor," Tillerson said. "China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own."
Tillerson said he was calling for action going beyond the sanctions approved by the Council, which he called "the floor, not the ceiling, of the actions we should take."
The sanctions resolution imposed a ban on purchasing North Korean textile exports, capped exports of crude oil to Pyongyang, and required countries to stop providing new guest worker permits to North Korean laborers.
U.S. officials said the worker provision, which would mainly affect China and Russia, would eventually cut off an estimated $500 million a year of revenues for Pyongyang from earnings sent back home by the workers.
The exchange between Beijing, Moscow, and Washington came as rhetoric escalated over the latest missile test, with North Korea issuing a defiant statement after its condemnation by the UN Council saying that sanctions will not deter it from completing work on a nuclear armament program.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency quoted leader Kim Jong Un as saying that his country has made strides in achieving nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities despite "limitless" international sanctions, and it will forge ahead and complete the work.
"Our final goal is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the United States and make the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military options," Kim was quoted as saying.
U.S. President Donald Trump had earlier decried what he called Kim's "utter contempt" for the rest of the world and warned that "our options are not only effective but overwhelming."
White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster also had warned that "there is a military option," though he said it is not the Trump administration's preferred way to deal with the crisis.
The UN Council after its closed-door emergency session on September 15 called Pyongyang's latest missile launch "highly provocative" and "outrageous," and said it represented a threat to the region and "all UN member states."
With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters