SEOUL/MANILA (Reuters) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his US counterpart Donald Trump agreed to apply maximum pressure and sanctions on North Korea yesterday, while Pyongyang strongly warned the US.
The UN Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday aimed at pressuring Pyongyang to end its nuclear programme. The sanctions could slash North Korea’s $3 billion annual export revenue by a third.
North Korea responded robustly and in traditional fashion yesterday, saying the UN moves were unwarranted and unfair, and it was ready to teach the United States a “severe lesson” if it launched an attack.
The US-drafted resolution bans North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood.
It also prohibits countries from increasing current numbers of North Korean labourers working abroad, bans new joint ventures and any new investment in current joint ventures.
North Korea denounced the sanctions, saying they infringed on its sovereignty, and vowed to take “righteous action”, according to the North’s official news agency.
In a statement to a regional security meeting in Manila yesterday, Pyongyang said it would never place its nuclear programme on the negotiating table as long as the US maintained a hostile policy against the North.
In a transcript of a statement by Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, which was distributed to media in Manila, Pyongyang called the new UN sanctions “fabricated”, and warned there would be “strong follow-up measures”.
It said its intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month proved that the entire US was in its firing range, and those missiles were a legitimate means of self-defence.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the support of China and Russia for the latest sanctions sent a strong message to North Korea about what was expected of it.
“When the conditions are right, then we can sit and have a dialogue around the future of North Korea so they feel secure and prosper economically,” Mr Tillerson said in Manila.
“The best signal that North Korea can give us that they are prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” said Mr Tillerson, adding that “other means of communications” were open to Pyongyang.
During an hour-long phone call, Mr Moon and Mr Trump said they would continue cooperating to rein in North Korea, particularly ahead of a regular joint military drill set for late August, South Korean presidential office spokesman Park Su-hyun told a media briefing.
Mr Moon was also cited as saying there was a need to show North Korea the door to dialogue is still open, should Pyongyang give up its nuclear programme.
In a separate statement, the White House said the two leaders “affirmed that North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat” to most countries around the world.
South and North Korean foreign ministers briefly met late on Sunday in Manila, according to a South Korean foreign ministry official.
South Korea’s Kang Kyung-wha asked the North to swiftly respond to proposals to improve ties, the official said of the meeting.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said he hoped North and South Korea could improve relations, and that he felt that North Korea’s foreign minister did not entirely reject proposals voiced by his South Korean counterpart.
“We also support the positive proposals put forward by the new [South Korean] government. We are ready to see the North and South resume contacts soon,” Mr Wang said.