The Trump administration says it has new momentum to expand international pressure on North Korea following a unanimous U.N. Security Council vote to ramp up economic sanctions as punishment for Pyongyang’s recent long-range ballistic missile tests.
President Trump hailed a Security Council resolution that passed Saturday with cooperation from both Russia and China, North Korea’s neighbor and main trading partner. The president tweeted that the development is “the single largest economic sanctions package ever on North Korea” and will have a “very big financial impact.”
News of the sanctions, which seek to ban North Korea from exporting coal, iron, lead and seafood worth about a third of its total income from trade, came as Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson arrived over the weekend in the Philippines at an annual diplomatic gathering in East Asia, where Chinese officials expressed cautious support for the development.
On Monday, Mr. Tillerson said the “first and strongest signal” North Korea could give to show that serious negotiations were possible is to stop its ballistic-missile testing.
Speaking to reporters in Manila, the secretary declined to give a specific time frame for how long a halt would have to last before the U.S. would negotiate with the North, but said America would “know it when we see it.”
He added that “other means of communication” are open to Pyongyang, again without elaborating.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who held separate meetings Sunday with Mr. Tillerson and with North Korea’s top diplomat, publicly urged Pyongyang to “maintain calm” and “not violate the U.N.’s decision or provoke international society’s goodwill by conducting missile launching or nuclear tests.”
Mr. Wang’s comments appeared to signal progress in the long-elusive U.S. strategy of trying to deepen Chinese cooperation toward more aggressively implementing sanctions against North Korea. However, there were also indications that Beijing remains wary about taking a lead role in containing Pyongyang.
“Who has been carrying out the U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning North Korea? It is China,” said Mr. Wang in Manila on Sunday. “Who bore the cost? It is also China.”
Mr. Tillerson also met with his South Korean counterpart Sunday, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in spoke with Mr. Trump by telephone Sunday night.
According to the White House, the two leaders agreed during the call that “North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat to the United States, South Korea, and Japan, as well as to most countries around the world.”
Mr. Trump and Mr. Moon also welcomed the unanimous passage of the U.N. Security Council resolution.
The Security Council resolution, drafted by U.S. officials and carefully negotiated with the Chinese, seeks to increase pressure on Pyongyang to return to stalled international negotiations over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
U.S. and Chinese officials don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on the prospect of such negotiations. The perception is that China wants negotiations to occur more rapidly than Washington, while the Trump administration, which has flirted with the alternative idea of backing all-out regime change in Pyongyang, has expressed frustration that the Chinese aren’t putting enough pressure on the North Koreans.
During his initial months in office, Mr. Trump voiced optimism about China’s role, but has more recently leveled veiled criticism at Beijing, saying at one point that Chinese President Xi Jinping had “tried” to help on North Korea and it “has not worked out.”
The administration has also teased the idea of expending Washington’s own unilateral North Korea sanctions to target Chinese companies as punishment for China’s ongoing trade with Pyongyang and overall perceived inaction on North Korea.
Some analysts go so far as to claim Beijing tacitly backs Pyongyang to antagonize Washington and maintain a strategic security edge in the region.
Mr. Tillerson said nothing publicly about North Korea following his meeting with Mr. Wang on Sunday, but did express broad optimism earlier in the day, calling the U.N. Security Council resolution “a good outcome.”
The council voted 15-0 on the new sanctions, which, if fully implemented, could deliver a $3 billion blow to revenues Pyongyang gets from exports to China and a handful of other trading partners. The sanctions also aim to block countries from giving any additional permits to North Korean workers, another source of money for Kim Jong-un’s regime in Pyongyang.
The vote followed the regime’s first successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. last month. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Saturday that Mr. Trump “appreciates China’s and Russia’s cooperation in securing passage of this resolution.”
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the Security Council had succeeded in putting the Kim regime “on notice” and “what happens next is up to North Korea.” Even prominent critics of Mr. Trump said the vote was an important step. Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul called the vote “a genuine foreign policy achievement.”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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