North Korean leader Kim Jong-un says Donald Trump is “deranged” and the U.S. president will “pay dearly” for his threats, the North Korean state news agency reports.
Trump announced a new executive order Thursday that he says will help the United States target specific people, companies and banks financing and facilitating trade with North Korea.
He added that the effort will also target North Korea’s shipping and trade networks. The order gives the U.S. Treasury Department discretion to sanction foreign banks that conduct transactions involving North Korea.
Trump stopped short of going after North Korea’s biggest trading partner, China, and in fact praised its central bank for ordering Chinese banks to stop doing business with North Korea. China is North Korea’s main trading partner and conduit for international transactions. Washington has been pushing China to scale back economic and financial ties to further isolate Pyongyang.
Trump was speaking from the United Nations in New York City, where world leaders are gathered for a meeting of the General Assembly. He was accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who expressed concern about North Korea’s tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
When a reporter asked Trump if dialogue with the North Korean regime was still possible, he said, “Why not?”
The UN Security Council was meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss “the acute threat” posed by the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their delivery systems.
During the meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the pursuit of nuclear weapons will not bring security for North Korea’s government.
“North Korea may assume that nuclear weapons will ensure the survival of its regime. In truth, nuclear weapons are clearly only leading to greater isolation, ignominy and deprivation,” Tillerson said.
“If China truly desires to de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula to promote stability and to avoid conflict in that sensitive region right on its own border, now’s the time to work with the rest of us … to put the kind of pressure on North Korea that can change its strategic calculations before it’s too late,” he said.
Trump told the General Assembly this week that the U.S. will have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea if the North continues to threaten the U.S. and its allies, including neighbours South Korea and Japan.
Earlier Thursday, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said to the Fox News Channel: “We do not desire a military conflict. But the president has made it very clear, as he did at the UN 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.”
North Korea was the likely topic of discussion when Trump holds separate talks later Thursday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Abe. The three leaders also met over lunch.
During a news conference Thursday at the UN, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he considers the situation in North Korea “extremely serious.”
“The North Korean regime represents a threat to not just regional security, but global peace.”
He said the development of nuclear weapons by the regime “represents something that all countries in the world should be seized with and concerned about.”
Trudeau said he recently spoke with the South Korean president about the challenges his country is facing. The prime minister said that, among other issues, the pair talked about the “levers available to neighbouring countries,” including China and Russia, to try to reduce the threat and de-escalate the situation in North Korea.
‘We are ready to assist’
In his own speech at the UN, Moon called for the North Korean nuclear crisis to be handled so as to maintain peace on the divided Korean Peninsula. Moon told the General Assembly more sanctions were needed to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table and force it to give up its nuclear weapons, but Seoul was not seeking North Korea’s collapse.
“All of our endeavours are to prevent war from breaking out and maintain peace,” 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 and accidental military clashes will not destroy peace.”
A former human rights activist, whom Trump has accused of appeasement toward North Korea, Moon urged North Korea to choose a path of peace.
“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.”
Fears of a military confrontation linger, however. North Korea conducted a series of provocative launches in recent months, including a pair of intercontinental missiles believed capable of striking the continental United States and another pair that soared over Japanese territory. It also exploded its most powerful nuclear bomb to date.
The impasse is no closer to being resolved. Russia and China, which backed the new sanctions, want the U.S. to seek dialogue with the North. American officials say the time isn’t right for any formal diplomatic process.
But other than using economic pressure to try to compel Pyongyang to give away its nuclear weapons — a strategy that has failed for the past decade — Trump’s administration has yet to lay out a strategy for a possible negotiated settlement.