by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Aug 7, 2017
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday that a UN Security Council vote to impose sanctions on North Korea showed that world powers were united behind a push for a denuclearised Korean peninsula.
Speaking at a security forum in Manila, Washington's top diplomat said Kim Jong-Un's regime must halt ballistic missile tests if it wanted to talk to the United States about resolving the standoff.
"It's quite clear in terms of there being no daylight between the international community as to the expectation that North Korea will take steps to achieve all of my objectives, which is a denuclearised Korean peninsula," he said.
On Sunday, Tillerson held separate talks in Manila with foreign ministers Wang Yi of China and Sergei Lavrov of Russia, both of whom he said were in support of a tough stance on Pyongyang's arsenal.
While Wang called for a resumption of dialogue with North Korea, Tillerson insisted Kim must first stop the missile tests.
"The best signal that North Korea could send that they're prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches," he said, holding out the prospect of US envoys sitting down with Pyongyang's isolated regime.
But he would not set a timeframe on when this might be possible or how long North Korea might have to refrain from testing more long-rang missiles.
"We'll know it when we see it," he told reporters.
"I'm not going to give someone a specific number of days or weeks. This is really about the spirit of these talks.
"And they can demonstrate that they are ready to sit in the spirit of finding their way forward in these talks by no longer conducting these missile tests."
The UN Security Council on Saturday approved a US-drafted sanctions package against North Korea that could cost it $1 billion a year in an effort to halt its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.
This was in response to the North conducting two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month that Kim boasted showed he could strike any part of the United States.
US and China pressure North Korea after sanctions vote
One day after Council members voted unanimously for a partial ban on exports aimed at slashing Pyongyang's foreign revenue by a third, top diplomats from the key powers in the dispute met in Manila.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was encouraged by the vote, but officials warned that Washington would closely watch China -- North Korea's biggest trade partner -- to ensure sanctions are enforced.
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his North Korean counterpart Ri Hong-Yo before a major regional security forum being hosted by the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
He urged the North to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
"It will help the DPRK to make the right and smart decision," Wang told reporters, speaking through a translator, after talks with Ri -- referring to the sanctions and to Ri's presence in Manila.
Pyongyang's top envoy has so far avoided the media in Manila.
But in a characteristically fiery editorial before the latest sanctions were approved, the North's ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun warned against US aggression.
"The day the US dares tease our nation with a nuclear rod and sanctions, the mainland US will be catapulted into an unimaginable sea of fire," it said.
Tillerson also met Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and was to see Wang later on Sunday, seeking to intensify Kim Jong-Un's diplomatic isolation and reduce the risk of renewed conflict.
"It was a good outcome," Tillerson said of the UN vote, before a meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-Wha.
Senior US envoy Susan Thornton said Washington was "still going to be watchful" on the implementation of sanctions, cautioning that previous votes had been followed by China "slipping back".
But she added China's support for the UN resolution "shows that they realise that this is a huge problem that they need to take on".
- 'Military option' -
The urgency of the situation was underlined by President Donald Trump's national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who told MSNBC news that the US leader was reviewing plans for a "preventive war".
"He said he's not going to tolerate North Korea being able to threaten the United States," McMaster said.
"It's intolerable from the president's perspective. So of course, we have to provide all options to do that. And that includes a military option."
Saturday's UN resolution banned exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore as well as fish and seafood by the cash-starved state.
If fully implemented it would strip North Korea of a third of its export earnings -- estimated to total $3 billion per year despite successive rounds of sanctions since the North's first nuclear test in 2006.
The resolution also prevents North Korea from increasing the number of workers it sends abroad. Their earnings are another source of foreign currency for Kim's regime.
It prohibits all new joint ventures with North Korea, bans new investment in current joint companies and adds nine North Korean officials and four entities including the North's main foreign exchange bank to the UN sanctions blacklist.
- What next? -
Trump hailed the vote -- saying in a tweet that the sanctions will have "very big financial impact!" -- and thanked Russia and China for backing a measure that either could have halted with their UN veto.
The United States began talks on a resolution with China a month ago, after Pyongyang launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4, followed by a second ICBM test on July 28.
But the measure does not provide for cuts to oil deliveries, which would have dealt a serious blow to the North's economy.
China accounts for 90 percent of trade with North Korea, and Beijing's attitude to its volatile neighbour will be crucial to the success or failure of the new sanctions regime.
China and Russia had resisted the US push, arguing that dialogue with North Korea was the way to persuade it to halt its military programmes.
Speaking to reporters after the council vote, Washington's ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said "what's next is completely up to North Korea."
US officials have insisted that while Tillerson and Ri will be in the same room during the Manila forum, there would be no direct meeting between the two envoys.
Beijing (AFP) Aug 3, 2017
China on Thursday welcomed comments by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Washington would not seek regime change in North Korea, after a week of verbal sparring between the two countries over Pyongyang's rogue weapons programme. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said "we attach importance to the remarks", when questioned on the US's latest comments on the North, which has caused intern ... read more
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