As President Trump reaches the 100 day mark with his presidency, one of his most challenging foreign policy issues is how to deal with a defiant North Korean regime in Pyongyang that on Saturday morning test fired its third ballistic missile for the month, just hours after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chaired a U.N. Security Council Ministerial Session on North Korea.
The Associated Press reports on Saturday that South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile, which was launched north of the capital Pyongyang, flew for several minutes and reached a maximum height of 71 kilometers (44 miles) before it failed.
The United States has recently sent a nuclear submarine and U.S. supercarrier, the USS Carl Vinson, outside of the Korean Peninsula as diplomatic efforts at the U.N. are underway to confront North Korea’s continual defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolutions, calling for North Korea to refrain from conducting further missile and nuclear tests.
North Korea has failed to observe several U.N. Security Council resolutions, not only by firing ballistic missiles, but also by conducting 5 nuclear detonations since 2006, including 2 nuclear detonation tests in 2016.
China has complied with recent U.N. efforts to sanction North Korea, including going along with U.N. Resolution 2321, approved in November 2016, that limits North Korea’s coal exports and bans exports of copper, nickel, zinc, and silver.
In February 2017, China agreed to ban all imports of coal from North Korea and more recently threatened to slap additional sanctions on North Korea if they carry out another nuclear test.
On Friday U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with U.N. Security Council members and set the groundwork for a tougher response to the North Korean regime in Pyongyang.
Tillerson pointed out that over the past 20 years well-intentioned diplomatic efforts to halt North Korea’s weapons programs have failed and as the regime in Pyongyang continues to pursue its weapons programs, the more they are pushing Northeastern Asia towards the brink of conflict and instability.
“With each successive detonation and missile test, North Korea pushes Northeast Asia and the world closer to instability and broader conflict” Tillerson said.
Tillerson admitted that the North Korean nuclear threat on Seoul or Tokyo is real and it is “likely only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland.”
Tillerson said during the Security Council meeting that for too long the international community has been reactive in addressing North Korea.
“Those days must come to an end” Tillerson said.
Urging Council members to work together to impose additional diplomatic and economic pressures on the North Korean regime, Tillerson explained that their goal is not regime change but for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons and missile technology programs before talks can begin.
“North Korea must understand that respect will never follow recklessness. North Korea must take concrete steps to reduce the threat that its illegal weapons programs pose to the United States and our allies before we can even consider talks” Tillerson said.
Tillerson proposed tougher actions for Security Council nations to undertake which includes fully implementing U.N. Security Council Resolutions 2321 and 2270 containing more comprehensive sanctions against North Korea beyond responding to the development of its weapons program and are aimed at imposing a more crippling impact across North Korea, including maritime and air transport, foreign trade, and financial transactions.
Tillerson called on countries to suspend or downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea and said “constraining its diplomatic activity will cut off a flow of needed resources.”
Tillerson said that increasing North Korea’s financial isolation remains a priority and encouraged a ban on North Korea’s exports.
“I call on the international community to suspend the flow of North Korean guest workers and to impose bans on North Korean imports, especially coal” Tillerson said.
Admitting that China accounts for 90 percent of North Korean trade, Tillerson explained that China alone has economic leverage over Pyongyang that is unique and important.
Tillerson said that the U.S. and China have recently held “very productive exchanges” on the issue and noted the U.S. will “look forward to further actions that build on what China has already done.”
On April 6th, U.S. President Donald Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, Florida and the two leaders discussed foreign policy topics, including North Korea and Syria.
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