Tillerson calls out China and Russia over North Korea ties
December 15, 2017
The White House and Tillerson had differing accounts of which country was being helpful on North Korea. Meanwhile North Korea's UN ambassador has insisted its nuclear ambitions were in self-defense against the US.
Tillerson calls out China and Russia over North Korea
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday urged Russia and China to reconsider their economic ties to the North Korean regime during a heated speech before the United Nations Security Council.
His outburst suggested that the sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the UN were not doing enough to convince the Kim regime to halt its nuclear weapons program or seek negotiations, and that more economic restrictions imposed by individual states were needed.
His words came the same day that US President Donald Trump told reporters that while China was a helpful partner in the nuclear standoff with North Korea, Russia was not.
The US policy towards North Korea has fluctuated in the past week, with differences between Tillerson and Trump over the potential for direct talks with Pyongyang at the forefront.
The secretary of state denied any policy discrepancies between himself and the president. "The president's policy on North Korea is quite clear and there's no daylight at all between the president's policy and the pursuit of that policy," he said on Friday.
US backtracks on its offer for unconditional talks
At the UN Tillerson had been expected to call on the rogue regime only to halt its missile tests before talks could begin. Instead, he changed the script, telling an audience of foreign ministers that, "North Korea must earn its way back to the table."
"The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved. We will in the meantime keep our channels of communication open," Tillerson said.
China and Russia not helping
Tillerson upbraided China and Russia for failing to put enough economic pressure on North Korea. He called out Beijing for continuing to allow crude oil to "flow" into the repressive state, adding that such ongoing trade ties between the two countries undermined international efforts to get the North to denuclearize.
The top US diplomat also accused Russia of propping up the repressive regime of Kim Jong-Un by using North Korean laborers. Continuing to allow North Korean nationals to toil in "slave-like conditions" for wages used to fund nuclear weapons "calls into question Russia's dedication as a partner for peace," Tillerson said.
Fall in China trade with North Korea suggests sanctions working
Tillerson also called on countries that have not implemented sanctions to "consider your interests, allegiances and values in the face of this grave threat."
Japan levies new sanctions on North Korea ahead of UN meeting
Japan announced on Friday that it is expanding its list of sanctions against North Korea, targeting financial services and commodities trading. The list of organizations and people targeted by asset-freezes now includes over 200 entities and individuals, including several from China.
Tokyo's new measures also target the highly controversial practice of sending North Koreans abroad to work on manual labor projects.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in an address to media executives in Tokyo that he was certain the sanctions were having an effect.
"It is possible that we will see further provocations. But what's important is that we do not bow to these threats. The international community must continue to coordinate and apply pressure until North Korea changes its policies and seeks negotiations," Abe said.
Flexing its nuclear muscles
In a rare appearance before the UN Security Council, North Korea Ambassador Ja Song Nam did not mention possible talks with Americans. He argued that his country's nuclear ambitions were self-defense against the US.
North Korea is "a responsible nuclear power and a peace-loving state," he said, without mentioning any intent to pause nuclear and missile tests.