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U.S. Wants More Help on North Korea -- WSJ

16 Sep 2017 6:32 am

White House says it has more options, but Kim Jong Un shows few signs of bending
By Paul Sonne in Washington and Chun Han Wong in Beijing 

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (September 16, 2017).

The Trump administration, looking to step up its pressure campaign against North Korea, is eyeing further actions against Chinese entities, as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shows little sign of bowing to international opprobrium over his nuclear and missile ambitions.

But the U.S. faces difficulty in winning more cooperation from China and Russia, which have played down their influence over North Korea and balked at more extreme measures against the country, such as a full oil embargo.

Diplomatic action on the issue will move to New York next week, where North Korea looks poised to dominate the United Nations General Assembly and a speech by President Donald Trump scheduled for Tuesday is likely to address Pyongyang's behavior.

The U.N. Security Council issued a statement Friday condemning North Korea's latest launch of a ballistic missile. After an hour behind closed doors at an emergency meeting called by the U.S. and Japan, the council called on North Korea to "immediately show sincere commitment to de-nuclearize through concrete action." The council stressed that all member states "must fully, comprehensively and immediately" implement all sanctions resolutions against North Korea."

North Korea's launch of a missile over Japan on Friday, its second in a month, demonstrated an ability to strike Guam. It came less than two weeks after the nation conducted its sixth nuclear weapons test, an explosion the head of the U.S. Strategic Command said he assumed was a hydrogen bomb. North Korea tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile this past summer, showing that its program advanced faster than U.S. intelligence had predicted.

The increase in North Korean test activity this year is raising questions about whether the U.S.-led sanctions and pressure campaign will work fast enough to prevent Pyongyang from fielding a missile that can land a nuclear warhead in a U.S. city -- a red line Mr. Trump has said he won't allow Mr. Kim to cross.

So far, Mr. Kim's government continues to advance rapidly toward that breakthrough, defying new United Nations sanctions with tests that refine his military's capabilities while simultaneously rejecting U.S. entreaties to enter negotiations.

White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Friday the U.S. needs time to see if new sanctions on North Korea and diplomacy succeed. He called on all nations to implement the sanctions fully but also lamented, "We are out of time."

"For those who have said and have been commenting about the lack of a military option, there is a military option," Mr. McMaster said. "Now it's not what we would prefer to do. So what we have to do is call on all nations, call on everyone, to do everything we can to address this global problem short of war."

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Friday again raised the prospect of military action if U.N. efforts and U.S. sanctions don't provide sufficient deterrence, saying Pyongyang's behavior could soon be an issue for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

If North Korea continues to "be provocative, they continue to be reckless," Ms. Haley told reporters at the White House, "I have no problem kicking it to Gen. Mattis, because I think he has plenty of options."

Ms. Haley said recent U.N. resolutions aimed at North Korea had "strangled their economic situation," cutting off 90% of trade overall, including 30% of oil imports in addition to banning natural gas and textile imports and new overseas work permits for North Korean workers. She said the president thinks more can be done. Asked whether the measures would succeed in achieving their goal, Ms. Haley said that was up to Pyongyang.

"There is no way that North Korea doesn't feel this," she said. "Now how they choose to respond. This is totally in their hands."

The comments came after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson singled out China and Russia in a statement released after Friday's missile test, saying they and other nations must do more to restrict Mr. Kim's government.

"China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labor," Mr. Tillerson said. "China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying appeared to reject that call on Friday, saying, "China does not hold the key to the Korean Peninsula issue." She noted that China, in signing on to the actions against North Korea, had "made enormous sacrifices and paid a great price for this."

"The nature of the Korean Peninsula issue is that of security, and its core lies in the conflict between North Korea and the U.S.," Ms. Hua told reporters at a regular news briefing.

Mr. McMaster rejected that characterization on Friday, saying the matter wasn't an issue between the United States and North Korea but between the world and North Korea.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the country's first left-leaning leader in nine years, has continued to call for peace talks as the North has advanced its weapons program. He has said South Korea will maintain humanitarian assistance to the North regardless of the political situation. Pyongyang has rebuffed his peace outreach each time.

Mr. Trump this month criticized Mr. Moon for seeking "appeasement" with Pyongyang. But Mr. Tillerson has also made repeated entreaties to North Korea to enter talks, which Pyongyang has also rejected, while raising the possibility of military action.

U.S. frustration with China over the issue is mounting, particularly after China joined Russia in stopping an American effort at the U.N. Security Council to impose an oil embargo on North Korea. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also said cutting off all oil exports to North Korea would amount to a human-rights violation.

Mr. Tillerson said Thursday at a press conference in London that securing a complete oil embargo at the Security Council was "going to be very difficult."

He expressed hope that the Chinese, who he said supply North Korea with nearly all its oil, would "take it upon themselves to use that very powerful tool of oil supply to persuade North Korea to reconsider its current path towards weapons development."

Chinese academics argue that measures such as a complete oil embargo are nonstarters, as China and Russia, which both share a border with North Korea, oppose steps that could trigger the country's collapse or force Pyongyang into making desperate moves.

Ms. Haley, asked about a full oil embargo, said cutting oil imports further would run into humanitarian concerns but said the U.S. was considering all options.

The Trump administration has threatened to impose further sanctions on Chinese and Russian entities if the countries don't do more to curb Pyongyang. Already, the U.S. has sanctioned Chinese and Russian companies for aiding North Korea.

Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said in House testimony this week that the U.S. was pushing China and Russia to further pressure North Korea. "But if they do not act, we will use the tools at our disposal," she said.

The U.S. diplomacy -- which has included asking countries to cut diplomatic ties with North Korea, remove North Korean guest workers that provide the regime with hard currency and stop North Korean airline flights -- has grown more urgent with each weapons test.

Experts who track North Korean tests said the intermediate-range missile Pyongyang launched over Japan Friday traveled farther than any of its previous missiles, demonstrating Mr. Kim has the ability to strike the U.S. territory of Guam. South Korea said the missile traveled about 2,300 miles. Guam is about 2,100 miles away from North Korea.

The missile soared over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and landed in the Pacific Ocean, triggering Japanese emergency alarms.

Japan is in the process of stepping up its missile defenses in response to the North Korean threat. Naval destroyers equipped with Aegis ballistic missile defense systems can shoot down projectiles, as can Patriot batteries stationed to protect certain sites on land. The country is also pursuing the installation of land-based versions of the Aegis system.

While some U.S. officials have floated the possibility of shooting down North Korean test missiles, others have expressed hesitancy, saying any failure to hit the target would amount to the opposite of a show of deterrence. Japanese and U.S. missile defense systems, however, would likely be triggered if military monitors saw that the projectile was on track to hit a target.

--Felicia Schwartz in Washington, Farnaz Fasihi at the United Nations and Timothy W. Martin and Kwanwoo Jun in Seoul contributed to this article.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 16, 2017 02:32 ET (06:32 GMT)

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