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  • Russian President Vladimir Putin sips a hot cup of tea. (FILE)

    Russian President Vladimir Putin sips a hot cup of tea. (FILE) | Photo: AFP

"They would rather eat grass than give up their nuclear program," Putin told reporters after the high-profile BRICS summit.

Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the “military hysteria” against North Korea resulting from its successful nuclear test, warning that any move that neglects diplomacy could lead to a global catastrophe.

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"Ramping up military hysteria in such conditions is senseless, it’s a dead end,” Putin told reporters after the high-profile BRICS summit in Xiamen, southeast China, which gathered leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. 

"It could lead to a global, planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. There is no other way to solve the North Korean nuclear issue, apart from through peaceful dialogue,” Putin added.

The comments hint at the possibility that the United States' petition for tighter international sanctions, which the Russian leader warned would be “useless and ineffective.”

Putin voiced his concerns over Washington's approach to the Korean peninsula crisis, comparing the U.S. military threats against the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as the country is officially called, to situation in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion.

"Everyone remembers well what happened to Iraq and Saddam Hussein," Putin noted. "Hussein abandoned the production of weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, under the pretext of searching for these weapons, Saddam Hussein himself and his family were killed during the well-known military operation."

"Even children died back then – his grandson, I believe, was shot to death," he continued. "The country was destroyed, and Saddam Hussein was hanged. Listen, everyone is aware of it and everyone remembers it. North Koreans are also aware of it and remember it."

Putin then asked, "Do you think that following the adoption of some sanctions, North Korea will abandon its course on creating weapons of mass destruction?"  

"Russia condemns these exercises on the part of North Korea. We believe they are provocative in nature. However, we cannot forget about what I just said about Iraq, and what happened later in Libya. Certainly, the North Koreans will not forget it."

Early on Sunday, the world was alerted to Pyongyang successfully carrying out a hydrogen bomb test in the mountains of the northern DPRK when observers detected a 6.3-magnitude earthquake. The detection was followed by claims of success by the DPRK's media outlets.

The United States has escalated its rhetoric in recent weeks, calling upon the U.N. Security Council to completely isolate the DPRK, including the severance of its fuel-trade channel with China.

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China and Russia have both since distanced themselves from that approach, instead calling for the suspension of ongoing large-scale military drills by the United States and its South Korean and Japanese allies in the volatile peninsula in exchange for Pyongyang ending its nuclear and missile programs

Putin pointedly criticized U.S. diplomatic policy, referencing a famous slip of the tongue by former U.S. President George. W Bush.

"True, it does not make sense to put us on the (sanctions) list alongside North Korea and then ask us to help with sanctions against it," Putin drily noted. "But it is being done by people who confuse Austria and Australia and then ask their president to persuade Russia to toughen sanctions."

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, on Monday called on the Security Council to impose the strongest possible sanctions on Pyongyang, noting that "every country that does business with North Korea" should be seen "as a country that is giving aid to their reckless and dangerous nuclear intentions” and could face sanctions.

In response, Russian ambassador Vasily Nebenzya urged the "need to maintain a cool head and refrain from any action that can escalate tensions."

"Our goal is to settle the Korean peninsula problem. I am not sure another package of sanctions can reach this goal bearing in mind that a rather tough sanction resolution 2371 was passed by consensus just a month ago but has not yet been fully implemented," Nebenzya added.

Meanwhile, the South Korean military has held drills as a show of force.

Pyongyang claimed that the tested warhead could be mounted onto an intercontinental ballistic missile, which would signal considerable progress in its nuclear program.

Hours after the test, U.S. President Donald Trump logged onto Twitter to denounce North Korea as an embarrassment to China, which he claimed was "trying to help (end the crisis) but with little success."

He later said he was considering stopping all U.S. trade with any country that maintained commercial relations with the DPRK. Experts have scoffed at the former real estate mogul's proposal as hardly feasible and a likely bluff, as Russia and China both have extensive trade links with Pyongyang, which enjoys considerable wealth in rare earth minerals.


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