Tillerson calls for U.N. members to suspend or downgrade relations with N. Korea

NEW YORK-- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for U.N. member nations to suspend or downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea and cut off trade ties supporting Pyongyang's illicit activities in order to maximize pressure on the regime to give up its nuclear program.

Chairing a special ministerial session of the U.N. Security Council, the top American diplomat also warned that the U.S. is willing to "counteract North Korean aggression with military action" and won't hesitate to sanction third-country firms and individuals supporting the North.

"The time has come for all of us to put new pressure on North Korea to abandon its dangerous path. I urge this Council to act before North Korea does. We must work together to adopt a new approach and impose increased diplomatic and economic pressure on the North Korean regime," Tillerson said.

Tillerson said the threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is "real" and it's only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland.

"Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences," he said.

He proposed U.N. members to take three actions: Fully implementing U.N. Security Council sanctions on the North; suspending or downgrading diplomatic relations with Pyongyang; and taking steps to deepen the North's financial isolation.

"North Korea exploits its diplomatic privileges to fund its illicit nuclear and missile technology programs, and constraining its diplomatic activity will cut off a flow of needed resources. In light of North Korea's recent actions, normal relations with the DPRK are simply not acceptable," Tillerson said.

He called for imposing new sanctions on North Korean entities and individuals supporting its nuclear and missile programs and tightening existing ones. He also warned that the U.S. won't "hesitate to sanction third-country entities and individuals supporting the DPRK's illegal activities."

"We must bring maximum economic pressure by severing trade relationships that directly fund the DPRK's nuclear and missile program. I call on the international community to suspend the flow of North Korean guest workers and to impose bans on North Korean imports, especially coal," Tillerson said.

Tillerson singled out China as the one with "unique" economic leverage over the North.

Such economic and diplomatic measures will be backed up by willingness to take military action, he said.

"As we have said before, all options for responding to future provocation must remain on the table. Diplomatic and financial levers of power will be backed up by a willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action if necessary," Tillerson said.

Tillerson said the U.S. holds no hostile intentions toward the North and is not seeking regime change.

"The DPRK, for its own sake, must dismantle its nuclear and missile programs if it wants to achieve the security, economic development, and international recognition that it seeks. North Korea must understand that respect will never follow recklessness. North Korea must take concrete steps to reduce the threat that its illegal weapons programs pose to the United States and our allies before we can even consider talks," he said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for a negotiated resolution of the problem.

"The use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters," Wang said during the council meeting.

He also reiterated opposition to the deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system in the South, saying it "seriously undermines" China's strategic security and hurt trust among partners working together on the North Korean issue.

Ahead of the Security Council session, Tillerson held trilateral talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida to discuss joint strategies to deal with North Korea.

The three countries reaffirmed their commitment to strongly pressure Pyongyang while sharing an understanding that it's important to change the North's strategic calculus so as to make it come back to serious talks about denuclearization, South Korean officials said.

They also agreed to maintain a strong deterrent against North Korean provocations and swiftly seek punishment way tougher than existing sanctions in the event of an additional provocation by the North, officials said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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