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Russia and South Korea at odds over North Korea sanctions

The leaders of Russia and South Korea have condemned North Korea over its latest nuclear test, but still appear far apart on the issue of stepping up sanctions against Pyongyang.

After meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Russian leader Vladimir Putin called for talks with North Korea, saying sanctions are not a solution to the country's nuclear and missile development.

Mr Moon had called for Moscow to support stronger sanctions against Pyongyang, which conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sunday in what it claimed was a detonation of a thermonuclear weapon built for intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.

"We should not give in to emotions and push Pyongyang into a corner," Mr Putin said at a press conference after a meeting on the sidelines of a conference on economic development of Russia's Far East, in the port city of Vladivostok.

"As never before everyone should show restraint and refrain from steps leading to escalation and tensions," the Russian president added.

Mr Moon said the leaders agreed that reducing regional tension and "quickly solving" the security challenges posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile programme were critical.

Ahead of the meeting with Mr Putin, he said the situation could get out of hand if North Korea's missile and nuclear tests are not stopped.

"Myself and President Putin share a view that North Korea has gone the wrong way with its nuclear and missile programme and that easing tension on the Korean peninsula is an urgent issue," Mr Moon said.

He complimented Mr Putin and the Russian government over what he said were diverse efforts to find diplomatic solutions to the problem.

Mr Moon, a liberal who took office in May, had initially showed a preference for a diplomatic approach on North Korea, but his government has since taken a harder stance as the North continued its pace in weapons tests.

In an interview with the Russian news agency Tass on Tuesday, Mr Moon said he believes now is not the time for talks and it is important for the international community to strengthen pressure against Pyongyang.

In a telephone conversation with Mr Putin on Monday, he urged Russia's support for stronger sanctions against North Korea, such as cutting off oil supplies and banning the use of exported North Korean workers who are seen as a key foreign currency source for Pyongyang.

Mr Putin told him the North Korean problem should be solved diplomatically, according to Seoul's presidential office.

The Russian leader, speaking in China on Tuesday, condemned the latest nuclear test as provocative, but said Russia views sanctions on North Korea as "useless and ineffective".

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, who will meet Mr Putin in Vladivostok on Thursday, said before his departure from Japan: "We must make North Korea understand there is no bright future for the country if it pursues the current path."

Mr Moon and Mr Abe are expected to hold a summit in Vladivostok on Thursday.

AP

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