The United States pushed Southeast Asian nations Thursday to step up sanctions against North Korea for developing nuclear weapons and missiles in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prodded his counterparts from the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to fully adhere to U.N. calls for sanctions on North Korea, officials said.
“Secretary Tillerson and the ASEAN foreign ministers discussed the tensions on the Korean Peninsula caused by the [North Korean] nuclear tests and missile launches, and the grave threat posed to regional stability,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
“They recognized the need for full implementation of all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions,” she said.
Before the meeting on Thursday, U.S. diplomats had reiterated Tillerson’s recent call at the Security Council for countries to sever diplomatic and financial ties with Pyongyang, warning that failure to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile abilities could lead to catastrophic consequences.
Patrick Murphy, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state to East Asia, told reporters after the talks that Washington was not encouraging ASEAN states to formally cut diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, but to examine the North Korean presence “where it clearly exceeds diplomatic needs,” Reuters reported.
He said some countries were already doing this and also looking at the presence of North Korean workers, a significant revenue earner for Pyongyang, Murphy said.
“We are communicating with all countries to implement the U.N. Security Council resolutions and, most importantly, deny North Korea the revenue streams it has used to advance its provocative programs. ... We are encouraging continued and further steps across all of ASEAN,” Murphy said.
“We think that more can be done, not just in Southeast Asia.”
All ASEAN members – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – have diplomatic relations with North Korea and five have embassies in Pyongyang.
In February, Malaysia downgraded relations with Pyongyang and withdrew from a visa waiver program for North Koreans following the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 that month.
Since January 2016, North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests, more than 30 launches using ballistic missile technology, and various other activities relating to the nuclear and ballistic missile programs in clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The council in December 2016 unanimously imposed its toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea by fixing a limit on the reclusive state’s key coal exports.
North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2006. Previous sanctions notably targeted North Korean weapons exports and access to financial markets. North Korea insists its nuclear weapons are a deterrent to U.S. aggression.”
Tillerson also told his ASEAN counterparts that the Asia-Pacific region was a top priority for President Donald Trump’s administration and that “ASEAN is an essential partner,” Nauert said in her statement.
Trump is scheduled to visit the Philippines and Vietnam in November to attend regional summits.