One day after North Korea launched its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile to date, the Trump administration is doubling down on its support for its “peaceful pressure” campaign and is looking at new ways to strengthen that posture.
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There are the new sanctions that President Donald Trump tweeted would be coming today – although there has not been any indication there will be an announcement. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also indicated the U.S. was considering targeting financial institutions doing business with Pyongyang telling reporters the administration had “a long list of additional potential sanctions… The Treasury Department will be announcing those when they're ready to roll those out.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping during their conversation following the launch to cut off oil supplies to North Korea. Earlier in the day, the White House confirmed in a statement that during the call the president "emphasized the need for China to use all available levers to convince North Korea to end its provocations and return to the path of denuclearization."
"China can do this on its own, or we can take the oil situation into our own hands," Haley warned at a U.N. Security Council meeting today after the U.S., South Korea, and Japan called an emergency session to address the launch.
Haley also renewed the administration's call for all nations to sever diplomatic ties with North Korea and drastically limit military, scientific, technical, or commercial cooperation, praising the 20-plus countries around the world that have done so already.
A State Department official told ABC News that the U.S. is also working with partner countries at the U.N. and in one-on-one conversations to increase maritime interdictions — seizing ships traveling to and from North Korea that may be breaking the embargoes on the country. The administration sees it as an important way to tighten existing sanctions, the official said.
The last U.N. Security Council resolution that passed in September requested that all U.N. members inspect ships going in and out of North Korean ports, but stopped short of the U.S. mission's desire to authorize the use of force in those efforts. The push now will be to fill in this gap and stop smuggling in the hopes still that North Korea can be squeezed so tight they are forced to negotiate.
Some critics say this will never happen, given North Korea’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons, which it sees as necessary for its defense.
The U.S. and Canada are also convening a meeting of the U.N. Command Sending States, along with South Korea and Japan, to better coordinate countering North Korea. These are the 16 nations that provided combat and combat support to the U.N. Command that fought North Korea during the Korean War and promised to return to Korea if the Armistice that ended fighting there ever failed.
This plan was in the works already, but is now being accelerated by North Korea’s launch, according to a State Department official.
Secretary Tillerson has spoken to the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan, as well as Canada, since the launch, and he will join a U.N. Security Council meeting on the North Korea crisis on December 15 at the invitation of Japan, the Security Council president in December.
Ambassador Joe Yun, the Special Envoy for North Korea Policy, also met with his South Korean counterpart yesterday as well in Washington.
Failing these efforts, the U.S. is prepared to act, Haley said.
"We have never sought war with North Korea, and still today we do not seek it. If war does come, it will be because of continued acts of aggression like we witnessed yesterday," Haley said. "And if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed."