U.S. asks other countries to sever ties with North

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U.S. asks other countries to sever ties with North

Washington asked countries to downgrade or sever economic and diplomatic ties with North Korea to deter it from its nuclear and missile program, according to senior U.S. State Department officials.

“North Korea views diplomatic meetings and visits as important markers of its international legitimacy,” read a written testimony prepared by Daniel Fried, the U.S. State Department’s sanctions policy coordinator, and Daniel Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, submitted for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday in Washington.

The testimony went on to say that earlier this month, Washington instructed its embassies around the world “to ask host governments to condemn the test and take further additional actions to downgrade or sever diplomatic and economic ties.”

As of Sunday, it added, “75 countries have issued statements condemning the test and several others have canceled or downgraded planned meetings or visits with officials from North Korea.”

This measure to further isolate Pyongyang is another indication of Washington’s strong stance against North Korea for its proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially following the regime’s fifth nuclear test, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and international norms.

Russel and Fried attended the hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy to address the issue of “The Persistent Threat of North Korea and Developing an Effective U.S. Response.”

During the hearing, Fried said that Washington is cooperating with its allies, including South Korea, Australia and Japan, and “encouraging - and pushing when necessary - third countries to curtail their own economic ties with North Korea.”

He added, “We’ve had some good results,” mentioning that they have essentially shut down the operations of the shipping line North Korean Ocean Maritime Management, as well as restricted the landing privileges of Air Koryo at foreign airports.

Several governments have imposed visa restrictions on North Korean passport holders, while Seoul shut down the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Park in February and Taiwan halted imports of North Korean coal.

But Fried also pointed out that North Korea’s coal exports, mostly to China, generate over $1 billion in revenue annually and account for about one-third of all export income.

He added that Washington is working “to curtail North Korea’s ability to export coal and iron ore,” as well as its overseas labor force, a source of revenue for the regime.

The hearing focused heavily on the need for China, Pyongyang’s biggest trading partner, to pull its weight more.

The U.S. Treasury earlier this week imposed sanctions on a Chinese firm Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development, suspected of contributing to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in North Korea, as well as its four top executives.

Fried pointed out that “it would be best if China itself came to the conclusion that it needed to put increased pressure” on Pyongyang.

“It would also be useful if Chinese banks and companies realize that, increasingly, dealing with North Korean companies, especially those that are sanctioned, is going to be risky, frankly not worth it,” he added.

He further indicated that Washington is willing to sanction entities that work with North Korean banks, saying, “We have crossed that line. We are actively, and constantly, looking at additional targets.”

Russel said during the Senate hearing that UN Security Council Resolution 2270, implemented in March, as well as other measures to respond to Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in January and ballistic missile launches has “significantly impeded” its ability to generate desperately needed hard currency, proliferate arms and nuclear material, attract international investment and economic assistance, or to extract concessions and aid from the outside world.

He added that in response to the fifth nuclear test, its latest one conducted earlier this month, “We will develop a new UN Security Council resolution that squeezes North Korea even harder,” saying that it will “expand and coordinate unilateral sanctions and impose escalating costs on North Korea” until it denuclearizes.

Cho June-hyuck, South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a briefing Thursday on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, “In a situation where North Korea is conducting serious strategic provocations, we need to create an environment where it cannot function normally in the international community so that the North realizes this and changes its strategy.”

He added, “So South Korea and the United States will continue to use all diplomatic measures and strategy to continue to pressure North Korea” until it is forced to change its ways.

South Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Yun Byung-se, in his address to the UN General Assembly in New York last week, said, “I believe that it is high time to seriously consider whether North Korea is qualified to be a peace-loving UN member.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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