17 Jan 2018

Nations to consider tougher North Korea sanctions

6:28 pm on 17 January 2018

New Zealand is among 20 nations to agree considering tougher sanctions to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Rex Tillerson called Winston Peters

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, and New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters Photo: RNZ

And US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has warned Pyongyang it could trigger a military response if it did not chose negotiations.

The 20-nation meeting in Vancouver agreed today to consider imposing unilateral sanctions on Pyongyang that go beyond those required by UN Security Council resolutions.

Those at the meeting also vowed to support renewed dialogue between the two Koreas "in hopes that it leads to sustained easing of tensions" and agreed that a diplomatic solution to the crisis was both essential and possible, a statement from co-hosts Canada and the United States said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has refused to give up development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States in spite of increasingly severe UN sanctions, raising fears of a new war on the Korean peninsula.

In a statement, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the countries represented at the meeting, including the United States, called for the full implementation of UN sanctions on North Korea.

He says New Zealand's invitation to take part in the talks reflected the strong emphasis New Zealand places on North Korea's denuclearisation.

US officials have reported a debate within the Trump administration over whether to give more active consideration to military options, such as a pre-emptive strike on a North Korean nuclear or missile site.

Rex Tillerson brushed off a question about such a "bloody nose" strike, telling a closing news conference: "I'm a not going to comment on issues that have yet to be decided among the National Security Council or the president."

However, he said the threat posed by North Korea was growing.

"We all need to be very sober and clear-eyed about the current situation... We have to recognise that the threat is growing and if North Korea does not chose the pathway of engagement, discussion, negotiation, then they themselves will trigger an option," Mr Tillerson said.

"It is time to talk, but they have to take the step to say they want to talk."

Mr Tillerson said all countries needed to work together to intercept ships attempting to skirt sanctions and said there must be "new consequences" for North Korea "whenever new aggression occurs."

The meeting had agreed that China and Russia, which did not attend the Vancouver talks, must fully implement UN sanctions, he said.

US officials say discussion of a military strike option has lost some momentum since North and South Korea held formal talks for the first time in two years this month and Pyongyang said it would send athletes to the Winter Olympics that South Korea will host next month.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said in Vancouver that the world should not be naive about North Korea's "charm offensive" in engaging in talks with the South.

"It is not the time to ease pressure, or to reward North Korea," he said. "The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working."

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