Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is on the offense at a summit here as he tries to increase the pressure on, and isolation of, North Korea after the U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions against the country’s rogue regime.
Tillerson is in Manila for an annual summit hosted by Southeast Asian countries collectively known as ASEAN. He’s meeting with regional partners, including Russia and China, just days after North Korea tested its second intercontinental ballistic missile in a month.
The new sanctions were drafted by the U.S. in consultation with China and passed unanimously at the U.N. Saturday. They block North Korean sales of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore, and seafood. The sanctions also halt any expansion of North Korea’s guest worker programs in other countries.
The revenue from these different sectors, worth as much as $1 trillion annually by U.S. estimates, is believed to fund North Korea’s expensive ballistic missile and nuclear programs. North Korea earns approximately $3 billion per year from exports, according to the U.S. mission to the U.N., meaning the sanctions could block as much as one-third of North Korea’s revenue.
The resolution also prohibits any new joint business ventures with North Koreans and limits existing ones and blacklists 13 new North Korean individuals and entities, including its primary foreign exchange bank.
“It was a good outcome,” Tillerson told reporters ahead of his meeting with South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha. A senior aide to Tillerson told ABC News that China signing off on anything is a major accomplishment.
But it remains to be seen how strongly China, North Korea’s largest trading partner, will implement the new sanctions.
“It’s certainly a good step that they’ve moved ahead to broaden the sanctions,” Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Susan Thornton told reporters Sunday, “but the implementation is something that we’ll be tracking and taking action on as necessary,” including possible unilateral U.S. sanctions on Chinese banks, firms, and individuals.
For its part, China took a stronger line on its neighbor publicly, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warning, “Do not violate the U.N.’s decision or provoke the international society’s goodwill by conducting missile launches or nuclear test.”
China urged restraint from the U.S. and South Korea as well though, calling on all sides to negotiate.