Trump, Moon vow ‘stronger pres­sure’ against N. Korea

The Straits Times - - ASIA -

SEOUL United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his South Korean coun­ter­part have pledged “stronger pres­sure” on Py­ongyang, Seoul said yes­ter­day af­ter North Korea de­fied tough new sanc­tions with a mis­sile test and said it wanted to match Amer­i­can nu­clear strength.

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is scram­bling to con­tain an in­creas­ingly bel­liger­ent North Korea, which in re­cent weeks has prompted global alarm by con­duct­ing its sixth and largest nu­clear test and fir­ing long-range mis­siles over Ja­pan that it says could reach the US main­land.

In a phone con­ver­sa­tion yes­ter­day, South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae In and Mr Trump “gravely con­demned” the lat­est mis­sile test last Fri­day, which came just days af­ter the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil an­nounced a raft of new sanc­tions against Py­ongyang.

“The two lead­ers agreed on more prac­ti­cal and stronger pres­sure... to make the North Korean regime re­alise that fur­ther provo­ca­tion will only bring stronger diplo­matic iso­la­tion and eco­nomic pres­sure, lead­ing to a path of col­lapse,” South Korea’s pres­i­den­tial of­fice said in a state­ment.

Py­ongyang says it needs nu­clear weapons to pro­tect it­self from “hos­tile” US forces and is de­ter­mined to build a weapons sys­tem ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing a nu­clear war­head to strike the US main­land.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who over­saw the lat­est mis­sile test, said the launch was part of the coun­try’s plan to achieve “equi­lib­rium of real force” with the US.

Ex­perts be­lieve Py­ongyang’s weapons pro­gramme has made rapid progress un­der Mr Kim, with pre­vi­ous sanc­tions hav­ing done lit­tle to de­ter it.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, which has con­demned last Fri­day’s launch as “highly provoca­tive”, will hold a min­is­te­rial-level meet­ing on Thurs­day on the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass de­struc­tion, fo­cused on en­forc­ing sanc­tions on Mr Kim’s regime, diplo­mats said.

The meet­ing will be held dur­ing the an­nual Gen­eral Assem­bly gath­er­ing of world lead­ers, where Mr Trump will meet the lead­ers of Ja­pan and South Korea on the side­lines to ad­dress the cri­sis.

Last week, the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil im­posed the strong­est set of sanc­tions against North Korea, slap­ping an ex­port ban on tex­tiles, freez­ing work per­mits to North Korean guest work­ers and plac­ing a cap on oil sup­plies.

China has op­posed the US’ de­mand for an oil em­bargo on North Korea for fear of trig­ger­ing a col­lapse in the im­pov­er­ished state. But some ex­perts say Bei­jing may be re­sist­ing a to­tal ban due to a prac­ti­cal rea­son: The oil that flows in the Dan­dong-Sinuiju pipe­line con­tains a high pro­por­tion of wax.

“If pro­duc­tion is halted, the pipes will clog up,” wrote en­ergy in­for­ma­tion com­pany Rim In­tel­li­gence in a re­port re­leased last year.

“If the wax in­gre­di­ent hard­ens, re­open­ing the pipes will re­quire heat­ing them,” said Mr Takayuki Nogami, chief econ­o­mist at Ja­pan Oil, Gas and Met­als Na­tional Corp.

China may fear it will not eas­ily re­cover these pipe­lines if it stops send­ing oil through them, re­ported Nikkei Asian Re­view.

Oil from China’s Daqing city is trans­ported from Dan­dong to North Korea via un­der­ground pipes, mak­ing it hard to ver­ify whether ex­port re­stric­tions are be­ing kept.

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