China and Russia remain opposed to tougher sanctions on North Korea after the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) approved a statement to condemn the North's recent launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan, making it uncertain whether additional sanctions such as an oil embargo sought by Japan and the United States would be enforced.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed during a press conference in Beijing on Aug. 30 that his country would fully implement sanctions against North Korea based on a UNSC resolution. The council had just adopted an additional sanction resolution against the North -- the eighth of its kind -- on Aug. 5 in response to the country's intercontinental ballistic missile launch in July. Wang apparently attempted to keep Japan, the United States and their allies, which are calling for yet tougher sanctions on Pyongyang, in check by stating that maintaining a stance to seek a solution through peaceful and diplomatic means is also an essential part of the UNSC resolution.
The Aug. 30 edition of the Chinese paper Global Times ran an editorial, with a headline questioning the negative cycle of missile launches by North Korea and increased international pressure on the country. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying also raised a question about the efficacy of U.N. sanctions during a regular press meeting the same day, asking why the situation plunged into such a vicious cycle and still continues to deteriorate.
Russia, meanwhile, had heretofore avoided strong condemnation of North Korea. However, the country threw its support behind the latest UNSC statement out of fear of the situation developing into a military clash involving Japan, the United States and South Korea following repeated missile launches by North Korea.
At an Aug. 29 UNSC meeting, Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, permanent representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, ruled out a military solution against North Korea, stressing that any further UNSC decisions against Pyongyang must clearly state this. The move is aimed at keeping the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump in check as it hasn't ruled out a military option against North Korea.
China and Russia have criticized Japan, the U.S. and South Korea for beefing up their missile defense capabilities on the grounds of thwarting North Korean missile attacks. Beijing and Moscow believe such a move could not only radicalize the North, but they also see U.S. forces' efforts to deploy additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile systems in South Korea as aimed at China and Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping reached an agreement during a bilateral meeting in Moscow in July that the two countries would seek to realize a simultaneous freeze on North Korea's nuclear programs and U.S.-South Korea joint military drills, as proposed by China. According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua, China and Russia take the completely same position over issues related to North Korea. China and Russia, therefore, are expected to apply pressure on Japan, the U.S. and South Korea to deter further deployment of the THAAD system in the region.