U.S. President Donald Trump announced sanctions on Thursday that open the door wider to blacklisting people and entities doing business with North Korea, including its shipping and trade networks, further tightening the screws on Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program. Trump stopped short of going after North Korea’s biggest trading partner, China, and praised its central bank for ordering Chinese banks to stop doing business with North Korea. Pyongyang has resisted international pressure, conducting its sixth and largest nuclear test on Sept. 3, and launching numerous missiles this year, including two intercontinental ballistic missiles and two other rockets that flew over Japan.
“Today I’m announcing a new executive order, just signed, that significantly expands our authority to target individual companies, financial institutions, that finance and facilitate trade with North Korea,” Trump told reporters ahead of a luncheon meeting with the leaders of Japan and South Korea. “Our new executive order will cut off sources of revenue that fund North Korea’s efforts to develop the deadliest weapons known to humankind.” Trump said North Korea’s textiles, fishing, information technology, and manufacturing industries were among those the United States could target. He said the U.S. Treasury Department would have discretion to sanction foreign banks that conduct transactions tied to trade with North Korea.
Trump did not mention North Korea’s oil trade. Four sources told Reuters China’s central bank has told banks to strictly implement United Nations sanctions against North Korea. The U.N. Security Council has unanimously imposed nine rounds of sanctions on North Korea since 2006, the latest earlier this month capping fuel supplies to the isolated state. Earlier on Thursday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, sitting with Trump and their respective delegations, said the U.S. president’s warning to Pyongyang in his speech at the U.N. on Tuesday “will also help to change North Korea.” Trump warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in his address that the United States, if threatened, would “totally destroy” his country of 26 million people.
It was Trump’s most direct military threat to attack North Korea and his latest expression of concern about Pyongyang’s repeated launching of ballistic missiles over Japan and underground nuclear tests. North Korea’s foreign minister likened Trump to a “barking dog” in response. On Thursday, South Korea’s Moon said sanctions were needed to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table and force it to give up its nuclear weapons, but Seoul was not seeking North Korea’s collapse. “All of our endeavors are to prevent war from breaking out and maintain peace,” Moon said in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly. He said that Pyongyang’s nuclear issue “needs to be managed stably so that tensions will not become overly intensified and accidental military clashes will not destroy peace.”
Moon, a former human rights activist whom Trump has accused of appeasement towards North Korea, said: “We will not seek unification by absorption or artificial means.” Moon said all countries must strictly adhere to U.N. sanctions on North Korea and impose tougher steps in the event of new provocations by Pyongyang. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will hold a news briefing at 3 p.m. (1900 GMT) in which he is expected to discuss the Trump administration’s sanctions announcement. U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley will brief the news media at 4:30 p.m. (2030 GMT), the White House said. In Geneva, North Korea told a U.N. rights panel that international sanctions would endanger the survival of North Korean children.
South Korea approved a plan on Thursday to send $8 million worth of aid to North Korea, as China warned the crisis on the Korean peninsula was getting more serious by the day. The last time the South had sent aid to the North was in December 2015 through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) under former President Park Geun-hye.
The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty. The North accuses the United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, of planning to invade and regularly threatens to destroy it and its Asian allies.
Earlier this month, Mnuchin warned China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, that if it did not follow through on new U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang, Washington would “put additional sanctions on them and prevent them from accessing the U.S. and international dollar system.” Last month, the Trump administration blacklisted 16 Chinese, Russian and Singaporean companies and people for trading with banned North Korean entities, including in coal, oil and metals.
However, it did not sanction Chinese banks that experts and former U.S. officials say enable North Korea’s international trade, often by laundering funds through the United States. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a news conference there “some indications” that sanctions were beginning to cause fuel shortages in North Korea.