Sunday, 19 November, 2017

U.S. lawmakers want 'supercharged' response to N.Korea nuclear tests

North Korean soldiers salute at Munsu Hill in Pyongyang North Korea to mark the 69th anniversary of the country's founding Saturday Sept. 9 2017 North Koreans celebrate holiday with familiar routines
Sammy Stanley | 13 September, 2017, 01:37

The International community condemned North Korea for testing the hydrogen bomb on August 27, marking the sixth time the isolated state has tested a nuclear weapon.

One company, Velmur, is officially a real estate company in Singapore, but Justice accused it of "facilitating the laundering of funds for North Korea financial facilitators and sanctioned entities", in a complaint filed last month, which notes that Velmur lacks a headquarters, offices and a website, and "bears the hallmarks of a front company". The latest resolution draft by the U.S. includes financial sanctions, among them a freeze on overseas financial assets.

That was the result of opposition from China and Russian Federation, which are wary of putting too much economic pressure on North Korea.

Treasury Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea credited China and Russia's support of the United Nations resolution but said both countries "must do much more" to implement and enforce the sanctions, in the face of Pyongyang's ability to evade restrictions that have been progressively tightened for a decade.

"We also won't open new accounts now".

In fact, before the North's latest nuclear blast, the general sentiment in the United States was negative toward deploying nukes in the South. China supplies most of North Korea's estimated 10,000 barrels a day of crude oil, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Despite the weakened penalties, Haley cast the resolution as a victory in her Security Council remarks. A case in point came in 2013, when the Bank of China suspended its transactions with the North Korean Foreign Trade Bank - North Korea' primary foreign exchange bank - following the North's third nuclear test.

"The U.S. has played a really risky game by demanding exceptionally severe general and personal sanctions and letting the details go public.", said Richard Gowan a United Nations expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations. NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said at the weekend that North Korea's "reckless behaviour", pursuing nuclear and missile programmes, was a global threat and required a global response. "If it proves it can live in peace, the world will live in peace with it", Haley added.

Ultimately, analysts said, diplomatic success would be measured not by the strictness of sanctions, but by the ability of world powers to persuade Pyongyang to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

He said the United States does not need China's cooperation to pressure North Korea. "But those talks are not yet happening".

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The Security Council vote is expected on Monday early evening ET.

Russian Federation and China both have veto power in the vote as permanent members of the Security Council. The move was not based in a UNSC resolution, but diplomatic observers concluded it was an independent move by the banks rather than a measure adopted by the Chinese government.

"Enforcement will depend a lot on China", said Tjia.

"But to achieve such a solution, the pressure on North Korea must be increased".

Susan Thornton, the acting top USA diplomat for East Asia, noted that last month the US rolled out new sanctions targeting Russian and Chinese individuals and entities.

He said the "unwillingness" of the U.S.to reaffirm pledges not to seek regime change or war in North Korea or to include the idea of having U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres use his good offices to try to resolve the dispute "gives rise to very serious questions in our minds". But the new test, they speculate, will not be into a high launch into space, but will be flattened out to demonstrate how far the missile can fly.

MCEVERS: Was it surprising that the US backed off in this way? Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is certainly keeping the door open to diplomacy, but he's focused on this sanctions track for now - the pressure side - so that if talks eventually get going, the US will go into it with some more leverage.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement published on state media that if the USA "does rig up the illegal and unlawful "resolution" it would respond in kind.

MCEVERS: Though she calls the resolution the toughest to date, the sanctions are not as stringent as the Trump administration had initially proposed.

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