US warns North Korea that diplomatic window is closing

US warns North Korea that diplomatic window is closing

WASHINGTON — The United States warned Wednesday that North Korea was “quickly closing off” the prospect of a diplomatic resolution to its provocations, as the Trump administration launched a government-wide effort to identify options for confronting Pyongyang following its unprecedented intercontinental ballistic missile launch.

President Donald Trump and other senior officials dangled the prospect of punishing countries that trade with North Korea — a threat aimed directly at China, Pyongyang’s biggest benefactor. In a tweet Wednesday morning, Trump questioned why the U.S. should continue what he sees as bad trade deals “with countries that do not help us.”

Some administration officials are still holding out hope of persuading China to ratchet up economic pressure on Pyongyang, despite Trump’s increasingly pessimistic attitude toward Beijing. Trump, who departed for Europe early Wednesday, is scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany.

Thus far, both China and North Korea have proven to be impervious to Trump’s tough talk and threatening tweets. Pyongyang heightened tensions this week with the test of a missile capable of hitting the U.S., a step officials described as a worrisome escalation by an unpredictable regime and perhaps the most pressing threat facing a new U.S. president with little national security experience.

Following the launch, the White House, Treasury Department, State Department, Pentagon and intelligence agencies accelerated discussions on options for responding to Pyongyang’s nuclear pursuits. The talks centre in part on the same bucket of ideas prior administrations have considered, including direct diplomatic negotiations and pre-emptive military action.

The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss the matter. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called Pyongyang’s missile launch “a clear and sharp military escalation.” She said that while the U.S. is not seeking a military confrontation, military options are indeed on the table.

“Their actions are quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution,” she said.

South Korea’s president, meanwhile, said the world should look at tougher sanctions against North Korea and insisted the problems across his border should be addressed through diplomatic channels.

“I think that the North Korean question should be solved by peaceful means,” said President Moon Jae-in, who will also meet Trump at the G-20 gathering.

The North Korean threat appears certain to hang over Trump’s European trip, which opens in Poland. Trump is expected to use the trip to try to forge consensus with European Union partners, which could also put more financial pressure on North Korea.

As he flew to Warsaw on Air Force One on Wednesday, Trump also spoke by phone about North Korea with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, emphasizing the need for countries to implement Security Council resolutions. The White House said Trump also discussed the need for nations to “stop hosting North Korean guest workers” — an issue Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also mentioned in his response a night earlier to the missile launch.

Restricting guest workers is one way the U.S. and other countries could try to reduce North Korea’s access to foreign currency. Some 50,000 to 60,000 North Koreans work abroad, mostly in Russia and China, South Korea’s spy service has said, including at about 130 restaurants North Korea operates overseas. The workers’ mission involves earning money to bring into North Korea.

North Korea conducts about 90 per cent of its trade through China, giving Beijing enormous sway over the reclusive government. Despite forging a friendly relationship with Xi, Trump has become increasingly dismayed at China’s reluctance to take tougher action against North Korea. He asserted Wednesday that “trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter.”

In April, Chinese customs data said total two-way trade between China and North Korea increased 36.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period a year earlier. However, raw data from the first quarter showed that total two-way trade increased by only 7.4 per cent. It was unclear why the customs agency reported a higher rate.

Anthony Ruggiero, a North Korea expert at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, said the U.S. could try to prod Beijing to take a tougher line on North Korea by exploiting Chinese banks and other companies’ desire for access to the U.S. dollar.

“The administration can give them a choice: Do business with North Korea or have access to the U.S. financial system,” Ruggiero said.

The Trump administration signalled its willingness to take that approach last week when it announced it was blacklisting a small Chinese bank over dealings with North Korea.

China has long resisted intensifying economic pressure on neighbouring North Korea, in part out of fear of the instability that could mount on its doorstep, including the possibility of millions of North Koreans fleeing into China. China has also been concerned that a reunited, democratic Korea — dominated by South Korea — would put a U.S. ally, and possibly U.S. forces, on its border.

___

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman and Robert Burns in Washington and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

___

Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC and Vivian Salama at http://twitter.com/vmsalama

Julie Pace And Vivian Salama, The Associated Press

North Korea

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

A man walks by a TV screen showing a local news program reporting about North Korea’s missile firing at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, July 5, 2017. North Korea‚Äôs newly demonstrated missile muscle puts Alaska within range of potential attack and stresses the Pentagon‚Äôs missile defenses like never before. Even more worrisome, it may be only a matter of time before North Korea mates an even longer-range ICBM with a nuclear warhead, putting all of the U.S. at risk. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Just Posted

Central zone has 20 active cases of COVID-19

Province identified 143 new cases across Alberta on Wednesday

Province should set mask policy, says city councillor

Digital conference will raise issues of local concern

Education taxes, ambulance dispatch concern Red Deer city councillors at AUMA meeting

The digital convention will raise issues of local concern

High school’s student’s anti-racism video offers hope

Jose Jordan got dozens of high school students to participate

Trail closed near Red Deer water treatment plant until Nov. 1

Construction on intake in river continuing

Liberals vow wage-subsidy extension to 2021, revamp of EI system in throne speech

Canadian labour market was hammered by pandemic, when lockdowns in the spring led to a loss of 3 million jobs

Anger, tears for protesters seeking justice for Taylor

Anger, tears for protesters seeking justice for Taylor

Long lines of mourners pay respects to Ginsburg at court

Long lines of mourners pay respects to Ginsburg at court

Israel’s Netanyahu calls for tough lockdown as virus rages

Israel’s Netanyahu calls for tough lockdown as virus rages

Portland denies permit for right-wing rally, cites COVID-19

Portland denies permit for right-wing rally, cites COVID-19

Prosecutor: Bar owner wanted to ‘ambush’ people stealing

Prosecutor: Bar owner wanted to ‘ambush’ people stealing

Police officers not charged for killing Breonna Taylor

Police officers not charged for killing Breonna Taylor

Trump won’t commit to peaceful transfer of power if he loses

Trump won’t commit to peaceful transfer of power if he loses

Is credit card relief little help? Check out debt management

Is credit card relief little help? Check out debt management

Most Read