U.S. President Donald Trump.(Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Trump Accuses Russia of Helping North Korea Evade Sanctions

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump accused Russia in unusually harsh terms of helping North Korea evade United Nations sanctions intended to press the country to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday. “What China is helping us with, Russia is denting. In other words, Russia is making up for some of what China is doing.”

Trump has leaned on China to curb its support for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime, and in exchange has so far laid off the punishing trade measures he promised against the U.S.’s largest creditor during his campaign.

North Korea’s weapons programs are Trump’s most urgent foreign crisis. He has vowed not to allow the country to develop a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland, threatening war to prevent it if necessary. But Kim has plunged ahead, and his government made rapid advances with both its missile and nuclear technology after Trump took office.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov said in December that stricter sanctions risked strangling North Korea, sparking a humanitarian crisis.

“Russia will not be part of this,” he told Interfax news agency, according to Russia Today. He said economic pressure alone wouldn’t lead to the resolution of the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula, adding there was also a humanitarian dimension to sanctions.

Trump declined to say whether he had communicated with Kim, Reuters said.

“I’d sit down, but I’m not sure that sitting down will solve the problem,” he said. “I’m not sure that talks will lead to anything meaningful. They’ve talked for 25 years and they’ve taken advantage of our presidents, of our previous presidents.”

Trump’s criticism of Russia is striking because members of Congress have said in the past that he was too reluctant to criticize Russia’s foreign policy and too eager to establish good relations with President Vladimir Putin.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.