North Korea has raised the temperature in the region by testing a nuclear bomb and intercontinental ballistic missiles in the recent weeks. Just last week, the United Nations Security Council approved a US-drafted resolution tightening limits on North Korean trade, but it did not go as far as the Trump administration wanted.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump hosted South Korea President Mr. Moon and Japanese Minister Mr. Abe, and ordered a widening of American sanctions on North Korea in an effort to further constrict its trade with the outside world. Mr. Trump also spent an hour on the telephone with Chinese President Mr. Xi earlier in the week, and on Thursday he hailed what he called a “very bold move” by China’s central bank to limit interactions with North Korea.
Mr. Abe has been largely aligned with Mr. Trump’s approach, but Mr. Moon has been the odd man out of the three, as he argued for more engagement and opposed any military action on the Korean Peninsula. However, Mr. Trump has derided this approach, calling it “appeasement” and declaring that “talking is not the answer.”
Vice President Mike Pence said “We do not desire a military conflict, but we are simply not going to tolerate a rogue regime in Pyongyang obtaining usable nuclear weapons that could be mounted on a ballistic missile and threaten the people of the United States or our allies.”
Trump Moves to Widen U.S. Sanctions on North Korea
President Trump ordered a widening of American sanctions on North Korea on Thursday in an effort to further constrict its trade with the outside world, as he presented a united front with South Korea and Japan and sought to forge a common strategy for confronting the isolated nuclear-armed state.
A new executive order that Mr. Trump announced would target additional North Korean entities and suggested that he was still committed to economic pressure for now, rather than military action, despite his vow to “totally destroy North Korea” if the United States were forced to defend itself or its allies.
“North Korea’s nuclear program is a grave threat to peace and security in our world, and it is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal, rogue regime,” he said as he hosted President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan for lunch in New York. “The brutal North Korean regime does not respect its own citizens or the sovereignty of other nations.”
Mr. Trump said his new order would enhance the Treasury Department’s authority to target individuals or businesses that conduct significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea. It will place new limits on textile, fishing, information technology and manufacturing industries, he said, and in an effort to prevent sanctions evasion, will include measures aimed at North Korean shipping and trade networks.
North Korea has raised the temperature in the region by testing a nuclear bomb and intercontinental ballistic missiles in recent weeks. But it has withstood an array of American and international sanctions for years, and it remains unclear whether the latest round will have any greater impact. Just last week, the United Nations Security Council approved an American-drafted resolution tightening limits on North Korean trade, although it did not go as far as the Trump administration wanted.
Some critics of Mr. Trump praised him on Thursday for focusing on diplomatic pressure rather than saber rattling. R. Nicholas Burns, a former under secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said the new American sanctions were “a smart move” because the latest United Nations resolution was insufficient.
“The U.S. sanctions will help to raise the cost to North Korea of its nuclear weapons buildup,” said Mr. Burns, who now teaches at Harvard. Referring to the United Nations Security Council, he added: “The Bush and Obama administrations pursued a similar path on Iran sanctions — both U.N.S.C. and American unilateral sanctions — which proved effective.”
The new sanctions came as Mr. Trump hosted Mr. Moon and Mr. Abe for a show of solidarity on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. The most important regional player, however, was not in New York: President Xi Jinping of China. He skipped this year’s United Nations session.
Still, Mr. Trump spent an hour on the telephone with Mr. Xi earlier in the week, and on Thursday he hailed what he called a “very bold move” by China’s central bank to limit interactions with North Korea. “That was a somewhat unexpected move and we appreciate it,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Abe, who has been largely aligned with Mr. Trump’s approach, offered words of support on Thursday. “Dialogue for the sake of dialogue will not produce anything,” Mr. Abe said. “The key at this moment is to exercise and apply pressure against North Korea in a robust manner. And together with Donald, we’ve been successfully demonstrating our strong will to exercise pressure against North Korea.”
Mr. Moon has been the odd man out of the three, arguing for more engagement and opposing any military action on the Korean Peninsula. Mr. Trump has derided this approach, calling it “appeasement” and declaring that “talking is not the answer.”
No mention was made of that on Thursday, however, as the president said that the United States and South Korea were “making a lot of progress” together and Mr. Moon embraced Mr. Trump’s bellicose speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday.
“North Korea has continued to make provocations, and this is extremely deplorable and this has angered both me and our people,” Mr. Moon said when he met with Mr. Trump before their lunch. “But the United States has responded firmly and in a very good way.” He told Mr. Trump: “You made a very strong speech, and I believe the strength of your speech will also help to change North Korea.”
Yet earlier in the day, Mr. Moon used his own address to the General Assembly to urge world leaders to “peacefully solve the North Korea nuclear issue,” step up diplomatic pressure and do everything possible to prevent war on the Korean Peninsula.
Mr. Moon told the audience that he had been born during the Korean War and that his father had died while displaced from home. He urged world leaders to increase sanctions so that North Korea is compelled to choose what he called “the path of dialogue.” And he urged Pyongyang to “abandon its hostile policies against other countries and give up its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable and irreversible way.”
The speech was a counterpoint to the Trump administration’s threats. “All of our endeavors are to prevent the outbreak of war from breaking out and maintain peace,” Mr. Moon said. “In that respect, the situation surrounding the North Korean nuclear issue needs to be managed stably so that tensions will not become overly intensified or accidental military clashes will not destroy peace.”
Mr. Moon sought to reassure the North about the South’s ambitions. “We do not desire the collapse of North Korea,” he said. “We will not seek unification by absorption or artificial means. If North Korea makes a decision even now to stand on the right side of history, we are ready to assist North Korea together with the international community.”
The speech came a day after North Korea likened Mr. Trump to a “dog barking.”
“Back home, we have a saying: The dog barks, but the caravan continues,” North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, told reporters in New York on Wednesday when asked about Mr. Trump’s speech. “If he thought he could scare us with the noise of a dog barking, well, he should be daydreaming.”
Vice President Mike Pence said Mr. Trump hoped to use Thursday’s meetings with South Korean and Japanese leaders to marshal “the economic and diplomatic power of the region and the wider world to achieve a peaceable outcome.”
Still, he said Mr. Trump was serious about his threat. “We do not desire a military conflict,” Mr. Pence said. “But the president has made it very clear, as he did at the U.N. this week, that all options are on the table and we are simply not going to tolerate a rogue regime in Pyongyang obtaining usable nuclear weapons that could be mounted on a ballistic missile and threaten the people of the United States or our allies.”
Source: New York Times, Peter Baker and Somini Sengupta, September 22, 2017. Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times