Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs’

US Urges China to Use Oil Leverage on North Korea

September 14, 2017

LONDON — The Latest on U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip to London (all times local):

6:05 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is urging China to use its leverage as North Korea supplier of oil to get the North to “reconsider” its development of nuclear weapons.

The United States has sought an embargo on oil imports to North Korea at the U.N. Security Council in response to North Korea’s most powerful nuclear test to date.

But the U.N. has agreed to weaker measures against the North — although the U.N. is banning ban textile exports, an important source of its revenue for the North.

Tillerson says it was going to be “very difficult” to get China to agree to an oil embargo. Still he’s urging China as a “great country and a world power” to use its leverage as the supplier of virtually all North Korea’s oil.


10:25 a.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is holding talks in London with British and French officials on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

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The U.S., Britain and France are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and the council this week approved new sanctions to punish North Korea’s latest nuclear test explosion.

The officials also intend to discuss the response to Hurricane Irma, which struck the southeastern United States and the Caribbean.

And expect the situation in Libya to come up during talks with representatives from the U.N., Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

It’s Tillerson’s second visit to Britain since taking office in February.



China-North Korea Relationship Seen as Crumbling, By Some

September 8, 2017

BEIJING — When Kim Jong Un inherited power in North Korea in late 2011, then-Chinese president Hu Jintao was outwardly supportive of the untested young leader, predicting that “traditional friendly cooperation” between the countries would strengthen.

Two years later, Kim ordered the execution of his uncle Jang Song Thaek, the country’s chief interlocutor with China and a relatively reform-minded official in the hermetic state.

Since then, ties between the allies have deteriorated so sharply that some diplomats and experts fear Beijing may become, like Washington, a target of its neighbor’s ire.

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Flags of China and North Korea are seen outside the closed Ryugyong Korean Restaurant in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, China, in this April 12, 2016 file photo. REUTERS-Joseph Campbell-File Photo Reuters

While the United States and its allies – and many people in China – believe Beijing should do more to rein in Pyongyang, the acceleration of North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities has coincided with a near-total breakdown of high-level diplomacy between the two.

Before retiring this summer, China’s long-time point man on North Korea, Wu Dawei, had not visited the country for over a year. His replacement, Kong Xuanyou, has yet to visit and is still carrying out duties from his previous Asian role, traveling to Pakistan in mid-August, diplomats say.

The notion that mighty China wields diplomatic control over impoverished North Korea is mistaken, said Jin Canrong, an international relations professor at Beijing’s Renmin University.

“There has never existed a subordinate relationship between the two sides. Never. Especially after the end of the Cold War, the North Koreans fell into a difficult situation and could not get enough help from China, so they determined to help themselves.”

A famine in the mid-1990s that claimed anywhere from 200,000 to three million North Koreans was a turning point for the economy, forcing private trade on the collectivized state. That allowed the North a degree of independence from outside aid and gave credence to the official “Juche” ideology of self-reliance.


China fought alongside North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, in which Chinese leader Mao Zedong lost his eldest son, and Beijing has long been Pyongyang’s chief ally and primary trade partner.

While their relationship has always been clouded by suspicion and mistrust, China grudgingly tolerated North Korea’s provocations as preferable to the alternatives: chaotic collapse that spills across their border, and a Korean peninsula under the domain of a U.S.-backed Seoul government.

That is also the reason China is reluctant to exert its considerable economic clout, worried that measures as drastic as the energy embargo proposed this week by Washington could lead to the North’s collapse.

Instead, China repeatedly calls for calm, restraint and a negotiated solution.

The North Korean government does not provide foreign media with a contact point in Pyongyang for comment by email, fax or phone. The North Korean embassy in Beijing was not immediately available for comment.

China’s foreign ministry did not respond to a faxed request for comment. It has repeatedly spoken out against what it calls the “China responsibility theory” and insists the direct parties – North Korea, South Korea and the United States – hold the key to resolving tensions.


Until his death in 2011, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il made numerous entreaties to ensure China would back his preferred son as successor.

While then-President Hu reciprocated, the younger Kim, in his late 20s at the time, began to distance himself from his country’s most powerful ally.

“There’s a lot of domestic politics in North Korea where this young leader who isn’t well-known, he’s not proven yet, especially has to show that he’s not in the pocket of Beijing,” said John Delury of Seoul’s Yonsei University. “I think he made the decision first to keep Hu Jintao and then (current President) Xi Jinping really at bay.”

Within months of coming to power, Kim telegraphed North Korea’s intentions by amending its constitution to proclaim itself a nuclear state. The execution of Jang’s uncle in 2013 sealed Beijing’s distrust of the young leader.

“Of course the Chinese were not happy,” said a foreign diplomat in Beijing focused on North Korea. “Executing your uncle, that’s from the feudal ages.”

In an attempt to warm ties, Xi sent high-ranking Communist Party official Liu Yunshan to attend the North’s October 2015 military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Liu hand-delivered a letter from Xi praising Kim’s leadership and including congratulations not just from the Chinese Communist Party but Xi’s personal “cordial wishes” in a powerful show of respect.

Xi’s overture has been repaid with increasingly brazen actions by Pyongyang, which many observers believe are timed for maximum embarrassment to Beijing. Sunday’s nuclear test, for example, took place as China hosted a BRICS summit, while in May, the North launched a long-range missile just hours before the Belt and Road Forum, dedicated to Xi’s signature foreign policy initiative.


Mao Zedong’s description of North Korea’s relationship with China is typically mischaracterized as being as close as “lips and teeth”.

His words are better translated as: “If the lips are gone, the teeth will be cold,” a reference to the strategic importance of the North as a geographical security buffer.

Despite its resentment at the pressure North Korea’s actions have put it under, Beijing refrains from taking too hard a line.

It said little when Kim Jong Un’s half-brother was assassinated in February at Kuala Lumpur’s airport. The half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, had been seen as a potential rival for power in Pyongyang and had lived for years in Beijing, then Macau.

An editorial in China’s influential Global Times warned after Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test that cutting off North Korea’s oil would redirect the conflict to one between North Korea and China.

Zhao Tong, a North Korea expert at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center in Beijing, said North Korea was deeply unhappy with China’s backing of earlier UN sanctions.

“If China supports more radical economic sanctions that directly threaten the stability of the regime, then it is possible that North Korea becomes as hostile to China as to the United States.”

For a graphic on nuclear North Korea, click:

(Reporting by Philip Wen and Christian Shepherd; Editing by Tony Munroe and Lincoln Feast)

Peace and Freedom Note: China is happy that North Korea occupies so much time and effort by the U.S., Japan and North Korea. China has bigger fish to fry in the South China Sea and westward to Africa and Iran. China’s number one mission is global economic expansion using the One Belt One Road. North Korea is not on China’s main street of expansion.


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Notice that China’s road does not go through North Korea….

 (Turkey seems more devoted to Iran, Qatar, Russia than to the EU and Nato…)

China, Russia at UN urge talks with North Korea

September 4, 2017


© AFP | US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (right) speaks with her Chinese counterpart Liu Jieyi before a UN Security Council meeting over North Korea, on September 4, 2017
UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) (AFP) – China on Monday again urged diplomatic talks to address the crisis with North Korea and warned at the UN Security Council that it will not allow chaos and war on the Korean peninsula.

“The situation on the peninsula is deteriorating constantly as we speak, falling into a vicious circle,” said Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi.

“The peninsula issue must be resolved peacefully. China will never allow chaos and war on the peninsula.”

His appeal was echoed by Russia, which said that diplomatic negotiations were the only way to settle the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said there was “an urgent need to maintain a cool head and refrain from any action that could further escalate tensions.”

Russia backs China’s proposal for a freeze on North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a suspension of US-South Korea military drills.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley however rejected the proposal as “insulting” and said it was time to ratchet up the pressure on North Korea by enacting the “strongest possible measures.”

“When a rogue regime has a nuclear weapon and an ICBM pointed at you, you do not take steps to lower your guard. No one would do that. We certainly won’t,” she declared.

Russia and China did not specify whether they would support additional sanctions on North Korea.

The United States, Britain, France, Japan and South Korea requested the urgent meeting after North Korea detonated what it described as a hydrogen bomb designed for a long-range missile.

South Korea’s defense ministry warned Monday that Pyongyang may be preparing another missile launch after two tests in July of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that apparently brought the US mainland into range.

John McCain, in Australia, Talks North Korea, South China Sea, China as ‘Bully’

May 30, 2017

John McCain’s China Sea call to US allies

John McCain at the war memorial in Canberra yesterday. Picture: Kym Smith


The Australian
12:00AM May 30, 2017

US Republican senator John McCain has urged Australia and other allies in Asia to join America in challenging Chinese claims to islands in the South China Sea.

Senator McCain, in his first newspaper interview since arriving in Australia, also said that Canberra must be heavily involved in strategies to stop North Korea’s aggression. “I think that the Australian government has to be involved … because there’s the possibility of the Koreans developing the capability to strike Australia,” Senator McCain said.

His comments came after North Korea test-fired a suspected Scud-type ballistic missile that flew about 450km into Japan’s maritime economic zone.

Senator McCain welcomed the boost to Australia’s commitment in Afghanistan by 30 personnel as an “important signal” and flagged a further US request. The decorated former US Navy pilot and Vietnam veteran said he expected the Trump administration to release within days or weeks its “strategy to win” in Afghanistan, including further requests for ­allied defence personnel.

“So we may be asking our ­allies and friends to make a larger contribution once we have and it will be soon, once we have announced a strategy for victory,” Senator McCain said.

In a television interview last night, Senator McCain ­labelled President Vladimir Putin as a greater threat to global security than Islamic State and the greatest challenge the US faced.

He told the ABC it was not “standard procedure” if presidential aide Jared Kushner conducted negotiations with Russia, as reported in the US press.

The Trump administration’s decision to carry out its first freedom of navigation exercise last week, sailing within 12 nautical miles of the Chinese-occupied Mischief Reef, has placed the Chinese-claimed islands back on the agenda. The dispute is set to be discussed at Friday’s Asian defence gathering in Singapore — the Shangri-La Dialogue — where Malcolm Turnbull will ­deliver the keynote speech.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said Australia is yet to commit to sailing within the 12-nautical-mile territorial zone around ­Chinese-controlled islands.

Australian defence experts are divided over the merits of Australian involvement. Former ­Defence Force chief Sir Angus Houston has come out against it, while former Defence Department head Dennis Richardson said it could be a good idea if done in a non-­provocative way.

Senator McCain said the US and its allies had not done enough to stop China’s island-building in the region. “I think we are doing a lot but don’t believe we have done enough to respond to Chinese filling in these islands for military purposes that have been judged by an international tribunal as a violation,” he said.

Asked whether US allies, ­including Australia, should be ­involved in exercises within the 12-nautical-mile territorial zone around the Chinese-built islands to enforce an international court ruling against their legitimacy, Senator McCain said “sure”.

“We should be doing patrols, we should be doing joint military exercises ranging from search and rescue to other joint military exercises, which is fairly routine but that doesn’t have to be in a threatening fashion,” he said.

Senator McCain said freedom of navigation was a “fundamental principle” of America’s national security policy. He said a bloc of nations including the US, Japan, South Korea, and India could join to “balance” Chinese behaviour in the ­region.

The Republican senator was damning of the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “The biggest mistake that the United States has made in many years is our announcement that we were not going to participate in TPP,” he said.

Senator McCain, chairman of the Senate committee on armed services, said he would see the US presence in Darwin expand under a proposed $US7.5bn Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative to increase US military presence in Asia.

Former US president Barack Obama started an annual deployment program to Darwin in 2011 as part of his US pivot to Asia. About 1250 US troops are stationed there.

Senator McCain acknowledged that ANZUS was now a subject of domestic debate in the Trump era, and said the only way to rebuild support was through ­asserting traditional American values abroad. “We have to reaffirm our commitment to the principles of democracy … whether they be freedom of the press, freedom of religion, (or) freedom of expression,” he said.

Senator McCain said Mr Trump had not raised these issues in his first trip abroad. “I wish he had,” he added.

On Monday Defence Minister Marise Payne announced Australia would increase its Operation Highroad deployment in Afghanistan from 270 to 300 Australian Defence Force personnel. Senator McCain welcomed the move.

“I think it’s an important signal, the 30 additional,” he said. “I think the signal they send is far more ­important that the number.”

Senator McCain urged Mr Trump to listen to Defence Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser HR McMaster ahead of the release of the administration’s Afghanistan strategy.



Tillerson Says Tougher Sanctions, Military Strike Among North Korea Options — Rejects Talks With North Korea on Nuclear Program

March 17, 2017

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says talks with North Korea haven’t worked


Updated March 17, 2017 9:40 a.m. ET

SEOUL—U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that Washington wouldn’t engage in negotiations with North Korea and that a pre-emptive military strike and tougher sanctions were among the options on the table in dealing with Pyongyang.

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Mr. Tillerson’s remarks to reporters in Seoul were his most direct statements on North Korea since he was sworn in as Washington’s top diplomat last month. His words hint at a harder-line approach by the Trump administration against North Korea, which is closing in on the ability to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range ballistic missile.

During last year’s presidential campaign, Mr. Trump suggested he would consider a wide range of policies on North Korea, at one point calling North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a madman who had be stopped, and at another point suggesting that the two men discuss the issue over hamburgers.

After taking office, Mr. Trump launched a policy review on North Korea that is continuing. Plans for back-channel talks in New York between government representatives from North Korea and former U.S. officials were scuttled last month after the State Department withdrew visa approvals for Pyongyang’s top envoy on U.S. relations, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Tillerson, who is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping this weekend at the end of a three-nation trip through East Asia, said he plans to raise concerns with Beijing over its perceived pressuring of South Korea related to a missile-defense system.

China strongly opposes Seoul’s decision to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, which is aimed at defending the South against missile threats from the North. In recent weeks, many in South Korea believe Beijing has clamped down on South Korean companies doing business in China. South Korea received the first components of the Thaad system earlier this month.

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Mr. Tillerson called China’s perceived actions against Thaad inappropriate and troubling. He said that China should be clamping down on the regional threat from its allies in North Korea rather than targeting South Korea.

“This is not the way for a regional power to help resolve what is a serious threat to everyone,” he said, referring to China. “We instead urge China to address the threat that makes Thaad necessary.”

Speaking at the same press conference, South Korea’s foreign minister, Yun Byung-se, described China’s actions as bullying that would be met with “clarity and resoluteness” by Washington and Seoul.

In Beijing, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said at a regular briefing on Friday that China had made efforts to promote dialogue between Pyongyang, Washington and Seoul, and declined to comment on Mr. Tillerson’s remarks ahead of his arrival in Beijing on Saturday.

With regard to sanctions, Mr. Tillerson said that there was more that the international community, including China, Russia and “a widening circle of allies,” could do to pressure North Korea.

“I don’t believe we have ever fully achieved the maximum level of action that can be taken under the U.N. Security Council resolutions,” he said. “We know other nations could take actions to alter their relationship with North Korea.”

He also dismissed the idea of negotiating with North Korea in hopes of freezing Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, saying that the North’s capabilities were advanced enough that a mere freeze would still leave it with the ability to threaten the U.S.’s allies and military bases in Northeast Asia.

“We do not believe the conditions are ripe to engage in any talks at this time,” Mr. Tillerson said. “I’m not sure if we would be willing to freeze with circumstances where they exist today.”

Mr. Tillerson hailed the alliance between Washington and Seoul, calling it a linchpin of peace in the region, echoing reassurances given by U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis during a visit to Seoul last month.

“Our commitment to this partnership will endure under the Trump administration,” Mr. Tillerson said. He added that South Korea’s removal of President Park Geun-hye last week wouldn’t affect the two countries’ relationship, pledging to work with the incoming government, which will take office in Seoul after an election in early May.

Mr. Tillerson’s remarks came a day after he slammed “20 years of failed approach” to North Korea during a meeting with Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, in Tokyo.

On Friday, Mr. Tillerson, who also met with South Korea’s acting president, Prime Minister Hwang Hyo-ahn, took aim at what he described as President Barack Obama’s inaction on North Korea, which he characterized as a policy of “strategic patience.”

“Let me be very clear: The policy of strategic patience has ended,” Mr. Tillerson said.

Write to Jonathan Cheng at



Rex Tillerson Rejects Talks With North Korea on Nuclear Program

SEOUL, South Korea — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson ruled out on Friday opening any negotiation with North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs and said for the first time that the Trump administration might be forced to take pre-emptive action “if they elevate the threat of their weapons program” to an unacceptable level.

Mr. Tillerson’s comments in Seoul, a day before he travels to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders, explicitly rejected any return to the bargaining table in an effort to buy time by halting North Korea’s accelerating testing program. The country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said on New Year’s Day that North Korea was in the “final stage of preparation for the first launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States.

The secretary of state’s comments were the Trump administration’s first public hint at the options being considered, and they made clear that none involved a negotiated settlement or waiting for the North Korean government to collapse.

“The policy of strategic patience has ended,” Mr. Tillerson said, a reference to the term used by the Obama administration to describe a policy of waiting out the North Koreans, while gradually ratcheting up sanctions and covert action.

Negotiations “can only be achieved by denuclearizing, giving up their weapons of mass destruction,” he said — a step to which the North committed in 1992, and again in subsequent accords, but has always violated. “Only then will we be prepared to engage them in talks.”

His warning on Friday about new ways to pressure the North was far more specific and martial sounding than during the first stop of his three-country tour, in Tokyo on Thursday. His inconsistency of tone may have been intended to signal a tougher line to the Chinese before he lands in Beijing on Saturday. It could also reflect an effort by Mr. Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, to issue the right diplomatic signals in a region where American commitment is in doubt.

Mr. Tillerson’s tougher line was echoed by President Trump on Twitter later Friday. “North Korea is behaving very badly,” he posted. “They have been “playing” the United States for years. China has done little to help!”

Almost exactly a year ago, when Mr. Trump was still a candidate, he threatened in an interview with The New York Times to pull troops back from the Pacific region unless South Korea and Japan paid a greater share of the cost of keeping them there. During Mr. Tillerson’s stops in South Korea and Japan, there was no public talk of that demand.

On Friday afternoon, after visiting the Demilitarized Zone and peering into North Korean territory in what has become a ritual for American officials making a first visit to the South, Mr. Tillerson explicitly rejected a Chinese proposal to get the North Koreans to freeze their testing in return for the United States and South Korea suspending all annual joint military exercises, which are now underway.


Tillerson warns diplomacy has failed on North Korea

March 17, 2017

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in South Korea determined to find a “new approach” to North Korea after two decades of ‘failed efforts’ at its denuclearization. What that may mean is open to conjecture.

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Tillerson arrived at the heavily fortified border with North Korea, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), on Friday. The US Secretary of State said that 20 years of diplomatic efforts in relation to North Korea had “come to nothing.”

“In the face of this ever-escalating threat, it is clear that a different approach is required,” he told a news conference, his first as secretary of state. “Part of the purpose of my visit to the region is to exchange views on a new approach.”

He noted a period when the US provided North Korea with $1.35 billion (1.28 billion euros) in assistance “to take a different pathway,” adding that it had not worked.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a ballistic rocket launching drill in this undated photo.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a ballistic rocket launching drill in this undated photo. PHOTO: KCNA/REUTERS

Tillerson and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed this week that their two countries should share strategic goals to deal with Pyongyang’s growing nuclear missile threat.

Threats from the North

North Korea has a long-standing ambition to become a nuclear power and conducted its first underground atomic test in 2006, in the face of global opposition.

Four more tests have followed, two of them last year.

Pyongyang has continued to defy the international community, even after two rounds of UN-backed sanctions, and last week test-fired a salvo of missiles that fell in waters off Japan.

South Korea, meanwhile, has agreed to deploy a US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea.

After visiting the DMZ, Tillerson is due to meet Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is also acting president.

Tillerson began his first Asian visit as secretary of state in Japan on Wednesday and travels to China on Saturday.

‘Beijing could do more’

Washington has been pushing Beijing to do more to help reduce North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Tillerson is expected to tell the Chinese leadership that the US intends to increase missile defenses in the region, despite China’s opposition, a US official told the news agency Reuters in Washington.

He will also press the North’s key diplomatic protector and trade partner to back tougher sanctions. Beijing meanwhile has been angered by the deployment of the THAAD missile defence system in the South.

Watch video02:02

Tillerson creates waves in South China Sea

The South China Seas dispute

During his Senate confirmation hearing for secretary of state, Tillerson compared China’s island-building and deployment of military assets to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and suggesting China’s access to the islands should not be allowed.

The topic is likely to be high on the agenda when Tillerson visits Beijing for talks with top officials on Saturday and Sunday.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei contest ownership of the South China Sea, which straddles one of the world’s busiest sea lanes and is believed to sit atopvast deposits of oil and gas.

Watch video01:51

jbh/rt (Reuters, AP, AFP)


Tillerson in South Korea in search of ‘new approach’ on North Korea

March 17, 2017


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) talks to acting South Korean President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn (R) prior their meeting at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jeon Heon-Kyun/Pool
By Robert Birsel | SEOUL

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in South Korea on Friday for the second leg of an Asian tour focused on finding a “new approach” for North Korea after what he described as two decades of failed efforts to denuclearize the reclusive state.

Tillerson, a former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, began his first Asian visit as secretary of state in Japan on Wednesday and travels to China on Saturday.

In South Korea, he will visit the heavily fortified border with North Korea, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), before meeting Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is also acting president.

In Tokyo on Thursday, Tillerson said 20 years of diplomatic and other efforts, including a period when the United States provided North Korea with $1.35 billion in assistance “to take a different pathway”, had come to nothing.

“In the face of this ever-escalating threat, it is clear that a different approach is required. Part of the purpose of my visit to the region is to exchange views on a new approach,” he told a news conference, his first as secretary of state.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches since the beginning of last year.

Last week, it launched four more ballistic missiles and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.

Washington has been pressing Beijing to do more to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Tillerson is expected to tell the Chinese leadership that the United States intends to increase missile defenses in the region, despite China’s opposition, a U.S. official told Reuters in Washington.

South Korea, one of the staunchest U.S. allies in Asia, has agreed to deploy a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea.

China says the system’s radar is a threat to its security.


Tillerson faces a delicate task in South Korea, which is in political turmoil after former President Park Geun-hye was ousted last week in a corruption scandal. A presidential election will be held on May 9.

A South Korean liberal opposition politician, Moon Jae-in, who has raised questions about the THAAD deployment, is leading in the opinion polls.

China resents U.S. pressure to do more on North Korea and says it is doing all it can but will not take steps to threatened the livelihoods of the North Korean people.

China has urged North Korea to stop its nuclear and missile tests and said South Korea and the United States should stop joint military exercises and seek talks instead.

Chinese state media reiterated on Friday that the main problem was between the United States and North Korea, and denounced what it called the “throwing of dirty water” at China on the North Korean issued by Washington and Seoul.

“They seem to have forgotten that the root of the nuclear issue on the peninsula is the deeply ingrained mutual distrust between the United States and North Korea and the long-time, intense confrontation between North and South,” the overseas edition of the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said in a front-page commentary.

Tillerson will also meet commanders of the 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

China Backs Out — North Korean issue fundamentally between U.S., North Korea

February 24, 2017


Fri Feb 24, 2017 | 5:10am EST

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches a performance given with splendor at the People’s Theatre on Wednesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State Merited Chorus in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 23, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS

China on Friday dismissed renewed pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump over its role in North Korea, saying the crux of the matter was a dispute between Washington and Pyongyang.

Trump told Reuters in an interview on Thursday that China could solve the national security challenge posed by North Korea “very easily if they want to”, turning up pressure on Beijing to exert more influence to rein in Pyongyang’s increasingly bellicose actions.

China has made clear that it opposes North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and has repeatedly called for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and a return to negotiations between Pyongyang and world powers.

It has also insisted it is dedicated to enforcing U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

“We have said many times already that the crux of the North Korean nuclear issue is the problem between the United States and North Korea,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing, responding to Trump’s remarks.

“We hope the relevant parties can shoulder their responsibilities, play the role the should, and together with China play a constructive role for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and for its denuclearization,” he added.

China announced on Saturday last week it was banning imports of coal from North Korea, after it tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

North Korean state media issued a rare reproach of China on Thursday saying its main diplomatic backer was “dancing to the tune” of the United States for halting its coal imports because of its nuclear and missile programs.

The North’s state-run KCNA news agency did not refer directly to China by name but in an unmistakable censure it accused a “neighboring country” of going along with North Korea’s enemies to “bring down its social system”.

Asked about the report, Geng said the U.N. sanctions were a clear signal of opposition from the international community about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and that China would enforce them.

However, he also described China and North Korea as being friendly neighbors.

“We are willing to work with North Korea to promote the stable and healthy development of relations,” Geng said, adding North Korea was well aware of China’s position on its nuclear program.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)


US Sees ‘Qualitative Improvement’ in North Korea’s Weapons Capabilities

January 6, 2017
January 5, 2017, 7:04 PM EST January 5, 2017, 8:27 PM EST

Washington (AP) — North Korea’s weapons capabilities have shown a “qualitative improvement” in the past year, the No. 2 U.S. diplomat said Thursday.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met with his counterparts from key U.S. allies Japan and South Korea, said the North conducted nuclear and missile tests with unprecedented intensity during 2016 and that the threat it poses grows by the day. The North Koreans learn from every single test, including failures, he said.

“They apply what they have learned to their technology and to the next test, and in our assessment we have seen a qualitative improvement in their capabilities over the past year as a result of this unprecedented level of activity,” Blinken told a news conference.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Sunday preparations for test launching an intercontinental ballistic missile have “reached the final stage.”

If such a missile were wedded to a nuclear warhead it could pose a new level of threat to the U.S. mainland, but it remains unclear when the secretive nation might achieve that goal. President-elect Donald Trump responded in a tweet Monday, “It won’t happen!”

Blinken said that the U.S. and its allies were not “sitting still,” and had bolstered defenses to stay ahead of the threat with additional missile defenses and radars on sea and on land.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year and more than two dozen ballistic missile launches.

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North Korea tests a long range ballistic missile

Japanese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Shinsuke Sugiyama said that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs represent a “new level of threat.” He said some missiles tests have failed, and others have succeeded, but their accuracy has increased.

He said that security cooperation among the three allies was “indispensable.”

Sugiyama said that although some changes were expected in U.S. policy toward Asia, he predicted the importance of the U.S. alliances would endure under Trump.

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Despite political uncertainty in South Korea, where the president is facing an impeachment trial, First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Lim Sung-nam said Seoul still plans to deploy within this year an advanced U.S. missile defense system opposed by China.

The U.S., Japan and South Korea reiterated their long-running call for the complete and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea and for the proper implementation of sanctions which they hope will pressure Kim’s government to return to long-stalled disarmament talks.

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North Korea — Missiles on display at a military celebration in Pyongyang, North Korea, in October 2015. Reyters photo

Blinken said that there were “positive signs” in China’s implementation of new U.N. restrictions on imports of coal from North Korea but that it needs to be sustained.

To date, sanctions have failed to stop the North’s weapons development, but Blinken said the experience of Iran showed that applying sanctions takes “determination and patience.”

“It’s not like flipping a light switch,” he said.

North Korea should be brought back to disarmament negotiations, US officials have said

North Korea should be brought back to disarmament negotiations, US officials have said

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South Korea, Japan impose new unilateral sanctions on North Korea

December 2, 2016

Fri Dec 2, 2016 | 1:59am EST


By Ju-min Park and Kaori Kaneko | SEOUL/TOKYO

South Korea and Japan said on Friday they would impose new unilateral sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, following a fresh U.N. Security Council resolution imposed on the reclusive country this week..

North Korea has rejected the U.N. resolution, aimed at cutting Pyongyang’s annual export revenue by a quarter after its fifth and largest nuclear test in September, as a conspiracy masterminded by the United States to deny its sovereignty.

Both South Korea and Japan already have comprehensive unilateral sanctions in place against North Korea.

South Korea said in a statement its expanded measures would blacklist senior North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un’s closest aides, Choe Ryong Hae and Hwang Pyong So.

Hwang, at one point considered North Korea’s second-most powerful official outside the ruling Kim family, is already subject to U.S. Treasury sanctions.

South Korea also said it would ban entry from the South by foreign missile and nuclear experts if their visits to North Korea were deemed to be a threat to South Korean national interests.

Japan said on Friday it too would add to its own list of unilateral sanctions, including a ban on all ships that have called at ports in North Korea, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

“It is a new phase of threat that North Korea forced, carrying out nuclear tests twice this year and launching more than 20 missiles, and it is enhancing capability. Japan absolutely cannot tolerate these acts of violence,” Suga said.

“Japan will consider further measures depending on moves by North Korea and the international society,” he said.

Tokyo will freeze the assets of more groups and individuals connected to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, he said.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told the Security Council on Wednesday the United States was realistic about what the new sanctions on North Korea could achieve.

© AFP/File | US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power

“No resolution in New York will likely, tomorrow, persuade Pyongyang to cease its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons. But this resolution imposes unprecedented costs on the DPRK (North Korea) regime for defying this council’s demands,” she said.

In February, Seoul suspended operations at a jointly run factory park just inside North Korea, ending the only significant daily interaction across the heavily fortified inter-Korean border.

In March, Seoul released a list of companies and individuals it said were connected to North Korea’s weapons trade and nuclear and missile programs.

South Korea said its new sanctions would expand the entities on that list to include Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Co, a Chinese company sanctioned by the United States in September for using front companies to evade sanctions on North Korea’s banned programs.

The new U.S.-drafted U.N. resolution is intended to slash North Korea’s exports of coal, its biggest export item, by about 60 percent with an annual sales cap of $400.9 million, or 7.5 million metric tonnes, whichever is lower.

It also bans North Korean copper, nickel, silver and zinc exports – and the sale of statues. Pyongyang is famous for building huge, socialist-style statues which it exports mainly to African countries.

(Addition reporting by Jack Kim in SEOUL; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Nick Macfie)