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Editorial |

North Korea’s sixth missile test, this time reportedly powered with a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded on to an ICBM, has predictably overshadowed the BRICS summit in China, whose President, Xi Jinping, is an ally of Kim Jongun.

Worldwide, there is considerable shock and awe over the all too frequent muscle-flexing and the technological prowess of the “hermit kingdom” now in unsplended isolation. Yet the conference can be said to have concluded on a critical note in the context of Vladimir Putin’s warning that the escalating North Korean crisis could cause a “planetary catastrophe” and huge loss of life.

From the perspective of an international reprisal against the Kim regime, the Russian President, a participant at the BRICS summit, has binned US proposals for further sanctions on Pyongyang as “useless”. He has thus countered the absence of a definite plan of action on the part of President Trump as also the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley’s charge that North Korea is “begging for war”, and that the time had come for the Security Council to impose “the strongest possible” sanctions after the latest test.

While sanctions can deal a crippling blow to the economy, they can scarcely bring a regime to its knees, if the Iranian example is any indication. Rightly has Putin referred to sanctions as a “road to nowhere”.

The Kremlin’s withers remain unwrung despite the Western sanctions after the annexation of Crimea and the expansionist designs in Ukraine. Over the past 72 hours, both the White House and the UN have been indecisive in firming up a policy on North Korea. In the aftermath of the North’s most powerful nuclear test to date, Putin has balanced his word of caution to the world with a somewhat placatory note ~ “Ramping up military hysteria in such conditions is senseless; it’s a dead end and 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, save that of peaceful dialogue.” That dialogue is unlikely to put in place a less reckless regime, one that has been ever so intent on precipitating a global crisis.

Putin has said that foreign interventions in Iraq and Libya had convinced the North Korean leader that he needed nuclear weapons to survive. The outlook is fearsome.

The underground blast last Sunday triggered an earthquake of magnitude 6.3 and was more powerful than the bombs dropped by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Viewed through that prism, the response of the West doesn’t quite match the enormity of the build-up.

One must give it to South Korea, however, that there has been a degree of counter-mobilisation, which has somewhat alienated Mr Trump who has restricted himself to rhetoric and bluster.