In what might be a last-ditch effort at reaching a diplomatic solution with an increasingly volatile North Korea, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to pass a new round of sanctions on North Korea on Saturday, in hopes of getting Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.
The administration holds in reserve a list of Chinese banks and other firms the Treasury Department has been preparing to sanction for their alleged ties to North Korea's military programs."Right now, our focus is on carrying out the existing sanctions and ensuring compliance with the new U.N. Security Council resolution", a senior White House official told Reuters on Tuesday, adding there was "nothing imminent to announce" on secondary sanctions. The AP reports that "the USA and other countries are deeply concerned" that North Korea's trading partners-principally China, but also Russia-won't fully enforce the sanctions.
The United Nations Security Council just voted 15-0 to sanction North Korea.
China is a linchpin in the escalating war of words between US and North Korea - especially its banks.
"The White House thanked both China and Russian Federation for their cooperation in a statement, adding: "[Mr Trump] will continue working with allies and partners to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to end its threatening and destabilising behaviour". But he also said it was not as simple as North Korea stopping launches for a few days or weeks. "We must be tough and decisive!"
According to South Korean statistics, China accounts for more than 90 percent of trade with North Korea - trade which increased this year by 10 percent. With the new resolution, there would be "not this kind of episodic back and forth that we've seen", she told reporters.
The vote marked a victory for U.S. moves to force the North to halt its development of a nuclear-armed missile that could threaten U.S. cities, and took some pressure off Tillerson before his Manila meetings. Guam, more than 3,000 km (2,000 miles) to the southeast of North Korea, is home to about 163,000 people and a US military base that includes a submarine squadron, an air base and a Coast Guard group. Alongside its ritual ballistic missile tests, North Korea has conducted nuclear tests on five occasions, two of which in 2016.
The Trump administration has made North Korea a top priority, with Tillerson announcing an worldwide pressure campaign in April that USA officials and observers say is beginning to tighten the noose on Pyongyang.More news: Rahul Gandhi bets on Congress win in Karnataka poll
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The ministers met in the Philippines' capital on the sidelines of the ASEAN forum. The resolution also bans countries from giving any additional permits to North Korean laborers, another source of foreign currency for the North, and prohibits all new joint ventures with North Korean companies.
Moon, who took office in May, has advocated engaging Pyongyang with dialogue and offered to hold rare military talks with the North to ease tensions after Kim's first successful ICBM test July 4.
Responding to the ICBM provocation with a show of force, the US and South Korean troops on Wednesday conducted "deep strike" precision missile drills using Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and the Republic of Korea's Hyunmoo Missile II. He wouldn't give a concrete timeframe but said that the USA would "know it when we see it".
But Tillerson also has pointedly stated several times that the United States does not seek regime change or a rapid reunification of the two Koreas, which have been in a state of suspended hostility since an armistice was declared in 1953.
Earlier Pyongyang said it was ready to give Washington a "severe lesson" with its strategic nuclear force in response to any U.S. military action.
China urged restraint from the USA and South Korea as well, calling on all sides to negotiate.
"You can feast on the North Korean speciality food by warm and hospitable North Koreans", it says.
After touring the site and walking past large stone slabs inscribed with the names of more than 36,000 men and women missing in action in the theatre between 1941 and 1945, Tillerson signed a visitors' book, adding after his signature, "Let us never forget - FREEDOM".