World

Latest sanctions just a 'small step'

US President Donald Trump says fresh UN penalties on Pyongyang 'not a big deal'

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the latest UN sanctions on North Korea agreed this week were only a small step and nothing compared to what would have to happen to deal with the country's nuclear programme.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned China that if it did not follow through on the new sanctions, the US would "put additional sanctions on it and prevent it from accessing the US and international dollar system".

Another senior administration official told Reuters that any such "secondary sanctions" on Chinese banks and other companies were on hold to give China time to show it was prepared to enforce the latest and previous rounds of sanctions.

The 15-member United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to boost sanctions on North Korea on Monday, including banning its textile exports and capping fuel supplies. It was triggered by the North's large nuclear test this month.

A tougher initial US draft was weakened to win the support of China - Pyongyang's main ally and trading partner - and Russia, both of which hold UN veto power. It stopped short of imposing a full embargo on oil exports to North Korea, most of which come from China.

"We think it is just another small step, not a big deal," Mr Trump told reporters.

"I do not know if it has any impact, but certainly it was nice to get a 15-to-nothing vote. But those sanctions are nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen."

...Those sanctions are nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen.Mr Donald Trump on the latest UN sanctions on North Korea

Asked if Mr Trump was considering other actions, including cutting off Chinese banks from the US financial system, White House spokesman Sarah Sanders said: "All options are on the table. The President has also said he wants every country involved to step up and do more.

"This was a small step in that process, and we are hoping that they will all take a greater role and a more active role in putting pressure on North Korea."

Washington so far has mostly held off on new sanctions against Chinese banks and other companies doing business with North Korea, given fears of retaliation by Beijing and the effects on the world economy.

Mr Trump has wavered between criticising China for not doing enough on North Korea to heaping personal praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping.

North Korean Ambassador to the UN, Mr Han Tae Song, rejected the UN resolution as "illegal and unlawful" and said the North is "ready to use a form of ultimate means".

He did not elaborate, but North Korea frequently vows to destroy the US.

The latest resolution calls on countries to inspect vessels -with consent of the flag state - if they have reasonable grounds to believe ships are carrying banned cargo to the North.

It also bans joint ventures with North Korean entities, except non-profit public utility infrastructure projects, and prohibits countries from bringing in new North Korean workers.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the sanctions could eventually starve North Korea of an additional US$500 million (S$674 million) or more in annual revenue.

The US has said that the sanctions agreed last month was aimed at cutting North Korea's US$3 billion export earnings by a third. - REUTERS

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