US wants to see N. Korea sanc­tions bite, no op­tions ruled out

Py­ongyang fires a sec­ond mis­sile over Ja­pan


GENEVA: The US wants to ex­haust ev­ery diplo­matic op­tion on North Korea’s nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grams, and to see loop­holes in the North Korean sanc­tions regime closed, US Dis­ar­ma­ment Am­bas­sador Robert Wood said on Fri­day.

“Sanc­tions have not had a real op­por­tu­nity to bite as hard as we would like them to bite, and that comes from the fact that they have not been fully im­ple­mented,” Wood told a news con­fer­ence in Geneva.

North Korea fired a sec­ond mis­sile over Ja­pan far out into the Pa­cific Ocean on Fri­day, South Korean and Ja­panese of­fi­cials said, deep­en­ing ten­sion af­ter Py­ongyang’s re­cent test of its sixth and most pow­er­ful nu­clear bomb.

Wash­ing­ton has in the past ac­cused China, North Korea’s main trad­ing part­ner, of fail­ing to ap­ply enough eco­nomic pres­sure to its neigh­bor. US Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin said on Tues­day that if China failed to im­ple­ment the lat­est UN sanc­tions on North Korea, he would seek new fi­nan­cial sanc­tions against Bei­jing.

Wood, for­mally US am­bas­sador to the Geneva-based Con­fer­ence on Dis­ar­ma­ment, said North Korea had ex­ploited “gap­ing holes” in the sanc­tions regime to se­cretly ac­quire equip­ment for its bal­lis­tic mis­sile and nu­clear weapon pro­grams: “We want to close those loop­holes.”

Asked if war or a US mil­i­tary strike was pos­si­ble, Wood said: “We are not tak­ing any op­tions off the table but... we are pur­su­ing the diplo­matic track right now.

“That’s where we are. We want to ex­haust all diplo­matic op­tions.”

The US wanted to see North Korea fur­ther iso­lated, with more coun­tries break­ing off or down­grad­ing re­la­tions and cut­ting off trade.

He said China had the same in­ter­est as the US in seek­ing the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean penin­sula, and had helped to ap­ply pres­sure on North Korea by sup­port­ing two UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions.

But he said there was much more that China could do, and sug­gested that Bei­jing’s “unique lever­age” was only just com­ing into play.

“We’re at a real in­flec­tion point with re­gard to China,” Wood said.

In a wide-rang­ing brief­ing on US dis­ar­ma­ment in­ter­ests, Wood also re­it­er­ated Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s view that Iran was not ful­fill­ing the spirit of the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion, the 2015 deal that al­lowed Iran sanc­tions re­lief in re­turn for curb­ing its nu­clear program.

“If you look at what Iran is do­ing with re­gard to bal­lis­tic mis­sile ac­tiv­ity... when you look at the sup­port it is giv­ing to the As­sad regime in Syria, to Hezbol­lah, to Ha­mas, their fund­ing and sup­port for the Houthi rebels in Ye­men... Iran is not in any way, we think, ful­fill­ing the as­pi­ra­tions of the JCPOA.”

He cited the pref­ace of the JCPOA, which says the sig­na­to­ries an­tic­i­pate that the agree­ment will “pos­i­tively con­trib­ute to re­gional and in­ter­na­tional peace and se­cu­rity.”

Trump must de­cide next month whether Iran is com­ply­ing with the deal.

Passersby are re­flected in a TV screen re­port­ing news about North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and their mis­sile launch, in Tokyo, Ja­pan, on Fri­day. (Reuters)

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