China Vows to Enforce U.N. Curbs on N. Korea as President Trump Praises Cohesion

BEIJING (Reuters) -
A new stamp issued in North Korea in commemoration of the successful test launch of the “Hwasong-14” intercontinental ballistic missile. (KCNA/via Reuters)

China will pay the biggest price from the new U.N. sanctions against North Korea because of its close economic relationship with the country, but will always enforce the resolutions, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday over its continued missile tests that could slash the reclusive country’s $3 billion annual export revenue by a third.

Speaking at a regional security forum in Manila on Monday, FM Wang said the new resolution showed China and the international community’s opposition to North Korea’s continued missile tests, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Owing to China’s traditional economic ties with North Korea, it will mainly be China paying the price for implementing the resolution,” the statement cited FM Wang as saying.

“But in order to protect the international nonproliferation system and regional peace and stability, China will, as before, fully and strictly, properly implement the entire contents of the relevant resolution.”

China, North Korea’s lone major ally, has repeatedly said it is committed to enforcing increasingly tough U.N. resolutions on North Korea, though it has also said what it terms “normal” trade and ordinary North Koreans should not be affected.

The latest U.N. resolution bans North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood. It also prohibits countries from increasing the numbers of North Korean laborers currently working abroad, bans new joint ventures with North Korea and any new investment in current joint ventures.

“What this is going to do is send a very strong message and a united message,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told NBC in an interview on Tuesday, adding that Washington would be watching to see the sanctions are enforced.

President Donald Trump praised other nations for addressing North Korea’s missile program.

“After many years of failure, countries are coming together to finally address the dangers posed by North Korea. We must be tough & decisive!” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

Haley said President Trump was keeping “all options on the table” for dealing with North Korea and speaking of its leader, Kim Jong Un, said “he has to decide if he strikes the United States, is that something he can win?”

North Korea has made no secret of its plans to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the United States and has ignored international calls to halt its nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea says its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are a legitimate means of defense against perceived U.S. hostility. It has long accused the United States and South Korea of escalating tensions by conducting military drills.

FM Wang said that apart from the new sanctions, the resolution also made clear that the six-party talks process, a stalled dialogue mechanism with North Korea that also includes Russia and Japan, should be restarted.

China appreciated comments earlier this month by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the United States was not seeking to topple the North Korean government and would like dialogue with Pyongyang at some point, FM Wang added.

The United States did not seek regime change, the collapse of the regime, an accelerated reunification of the peninsula or an excuse to send the U.S. military into North Korea, Sec. Tillerson said.

Minister Wang said Sec. Tillerson’s “Four Nos” promise was a positive signal.

China “hopes North Korea can echo this signal from the United States,” FM Wang added.

Speaking at the same forum on Monday, Sec. Tillerson held a door open for dialogue with North Korea saying Washington was willing to talk to Pyongyang if it halted its missile test launches. Still, he maintained the pressure on North Korea, pressing Thailand on Tuesday for more action against Pyongyang.

North Korea said the sanctions infringed its sovereignty and it was ready to give Washington a “severe lesson” with its strategic nuclear force in response to any U.S. military action.

The successful testing of two ICBMs last month suggested the reclusive North was making technical progress, Japan’s annual Defense White Paper warned.

“Since last year, when it forcibly implemented two nuclear tests and more than 20 ballistic missile launches, the security threats have entered a new stage,” the Japanese Defense Ministry said in the 563-page document released on Tuesday.

“It is conceivable that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has already considerably advanced and it is possible that North Korea has already achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has acquired nuclear warheads,” it said.

South Korea reiterated that further resolutions against Pyongyang could follow if it did not pull back.

“North Korea should realize [that] if it doesn’t stop its nuclear, missile provocations, it will face even stronger pressure and sanctions,” Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun told a regular news briefing. “We warn North Korea not to test or misunderstand the will of the South Korea-U.S. alliance.”