The UN Security Council was set to vote Saturday on tough new sanctions drafted by Washington that would deprive North Korea of vital export income after it defied international pressure to test its second intercontinental ballistic missile.
A top White House advisor, meanwhile, emphasized that US President Donald Trump is “not going to tolerate North Korea being able to threaten the United States.”
“So of course, we have to provide all options to do that. And that includes a military option,” Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, the US national security advisor, said in an interview with MSNBC that aired Saturday.
The Security Council resolution, drafted by the US, follows a month of negotiations with Pyongyang’s main trading partner and ally China over ways to compel the regime of Kim Jong-Un to halt its missile and nuclear program.
It calls for a ban on all exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore, as well as fish and seafood by the cash-starved state — which would strip the state of roughly a third of its export earnings estimated at $3 billion per year.
The Security Council was scheduled to vote at 3 pm (1900 GMT) Saturday on the measures, as a diplomat who briefed reporters said he had “high confidence” that neither China nor Russia would exercise their powers of veto.
McMaster, in the interview with MSNBC, said Trump had told China’s President Xi Jinping it was no longer enough for North Korea to “freeze” its programs since it had already crossed “threshold capability” and the goal was now denuclearization.
He said: “The president’s been very clear about it. He said, he’s not gonna tolerate North Korea being able to threaten the United States… It’s intolerable from the president’s perspective.
Asked whether Trump had been “walked through” scenarios in which the US carried out a pre-emptive strike, McMaster replied: “He’s been very much involved and has been deeply briefed, you know, on all aspects of the strategy.”
Backed by its European allies, Japan and South Korea, the United States has been leading the push at the United Nations for tougher sanctions in response to North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4.
A second test on July 28 further raised alarm about Pyongyang’s drive to develop a missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.
– Olive branch –
The draft text would also prevent North Korea from increasing the number of workers it sends abroad, prohibit all new joint ventures and ban new investment in the current joint companies, as well as sanction Pyongyang’s primary foreign exchange bank.
The new raft of measures would be the seventh set of UN sanctions imposed on North Korea since it first carried out a nuclear test in 2006, but these have failed to compel Pyongyang to change its behavior.
But it does not provide for cuts to oil deliveries to North Korea — a move that would have dealt a serious blow to the economy.
Russia has warned that it would not support sanctions that would worsen North Korea’s humanitarian crisis.
As negotiations at the United Nations entered the final stretch, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that Washington was not seeking regime change in North Korea and was willing to talk to Pyongyang
South Korea’s foreign minister, meanwhile, held out a diplomatic olive branch Saturday, saying she was open to holding discussions with her North Korean counterpart at a security forum in the Philippines.
“If there is an opportunity that naturally occurs, we should talk,” Kang Kyung-Wha told reporters as she landed in Manila on Saturday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
North Korea’s top diplomat, Ri Hong-Yo, is also attending the regional summit, which is hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Seoul last month proposed military talks with Pyongyang but the North refused to respond. Had they gone ahead, they would have been the first official inter-Korean talks since 2015.