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World Leaders Consider Answer to North Korea’s Latest Nuclear Test

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping line up for a photo during the BRICS Summit in southeastern China's Fujian province, Sept. 4, 2017.
World Leaders Consider an Answer to North Korea's Latest Nuclear Test
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North Korea’s latest and sixth nuclear test has brought strong reactions from its neighbors and the United States. But Russia and China question additional moves.

On Tuesday, South Korea announced that it plans to expand its own missile abilities. South Korea said it has reached an agreement “in principle” with the United States to increase the payload of its missiles.

An agreement reached in 1979 limits the payload and distance of South Korean missiles. The agreement limits South Korean missiles to a payload of 500 kilograms and a distance of 800 kilometers, according to Reuters.

U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in spoke about the change during a 40-minute telephone discussion.

In addition, Trump said early Tuesday on Twitter that the U.S. would permit the sale of “sophisticated military equipment” to Japan and South Korea.

Nations consider latest North Korean nuclear test

At the United Nations, the U.S. has said it will offer a new resolution targeting North Korea. However, Russia and China are questioning whether additional restrictions will improve the situation.

After North Korea carried out a long-range missile test in July, the UN placed strong sanctions on the country’s economy. Trade bans on North Korea were aimed at cutting North Korean exports by one billion dollars.

North Korea carried out its latest nuclear test as leaders of major developing countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (or BRICS) -- gathered in Xiamen, a Chinese city on the Taiwan Strait. The meeting is known as the BRICS Summit.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, at the BRICS meeting, increased sanctions would not help. He said such measures would not cause a change in leadership in North Korea.

Putin warned of a “global catastrophe” if military tensions continue to increase on the Korean Peninsula.

Leaders attending the BRICS meeting condemned the nuclear test. But Chinese president Xi Jinping did not mention the incident at the end of the meeting.

Later, at a regular briefing, a foreign ministry spokesman called the situation “highly sensitive and complicated.” He called on both sides to avoid increasing tensions.

Concerns about stability of North Korea

Bruce Bennett is a defense expert with the Rand Corporation research group. He told VOA that the two nations are unwilling to place additional sanctions on the North.

“They are reluctant because they just don’t know how unstable North Korea is.”

Bennett said that China worries about a crisis on its border. He said China may consider the North too unstable to increase sanctions.

China has also directed state media to control online discussion of the North’s activity, according to Radio Free Asia. The U.S.-based China Digital Times reported that, “All websites are banned from deliberately hyping related topics.”

Explosion is largest test yet by North Korea

North Korea’s nuclear test on September 3 was its sixth and by far the most powerful. The country said the device was a hydrogen bomb, a more powerful kind of nuclear weapon.

The explosion was detected as an earthquake reported to be magnitude 6.3. The test was estimated to equal 100,000 tons of the explosive TNT, or 100 kilotons.

On Sunday, a North Korean diplomat attending a UN conference on disarmament in Geneva suggested that North Korea may have another test planned. The official said North Korea is prepared to send “more gift packages” to the U.S.

South Korean media reported that North Korea may be moving a long-range missile into position. And South Korea’s defense ministry has warned that the North could launch a missile at any time.

Dan Sneider is a visiting scholar with Stanford University’s Walther H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. He said it is not hard to understand why North Korea continues its testing activities.

He said the North’s weapons programs have become too important to the country’s leaders to negotiate away for economic gains.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Mario Ritter adapted this story for VOA Learning English from VOA news reports from Steve Herman, Richard Green, Bill Ide, VOA News and Reuters. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

payload –n. the amount of material that a vehicle can carry

sophisticated –adj. highly developed or complex

sanctions –n. measures taken to force a country to obey international laws usually by limiting or stopping some form of trade with other countries

overwhelming –adj. very great in number or effect

unstable –adj. likely to change easily or at any time

hyping –v. to talk about in a way meant to cause people to get excited or outraged

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