TOKYO -- China and Russia have exchanged pointed remarks with the U.S. on who should be blamed for North Korea's ongoing nuclear and missile development, as their growing rift hurts the global community's chances of reaching an effective solution to the problem.
"As the principal economic enablers of North Korea's nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility" for the current situation, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday in response to Pyongyang's latest missile launch.
Russia's foreign ministry hit back in a Monday statement, claiming military actions by the U.S., South Korea and Japan are feeding tensions in the region and specifically citing the American Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile shield being installed in the South.
The ministry also slammed the U.S. for "groundless attempts" at "blaming Moscow and Beijing for indulging [North Korea's] missile and nuclear ambitions." It stressed that both Russia and China were committed to a joint road map toward resolving the issue through dialogue.
Liu Jieyi, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, also dismissed American pressures for tougher sanctions on Pyongyang, telling reporters Monday that it was up to the U.S. and North Korea, not China, to move the situation forward.
Moscow has taken a tougher line on Washington after Congress last week passed a bill imposing new sanctions against Russia. With bilateral ties showing no signs of warming, Russia may be seeking to deepen its relations with China by cooperating on the North Korean issue.
Both China and Russia have opposed tough sanctions on the North, and continue to trade fuel and other products with the hermit nation. The U.S. is looking into fresh penalties for Chinese and Russian companies that have business with Pyongyang, and will likely step up pressure in response to these recent statements.