Rex Tillerson calls out China and Russia over North Korea ties

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The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday urged Russia and China to reconsider their economic ties to the North Korean regime during a heated speech before the United Nations Security Council.

Tillerson called out Beijing for continuing to allow crude oil to “flow” into repressive state, adding that such ongoing trade ties between the two countries undermined international efforts to get the North to denuclearize.

Read more: Russia ‘increasing oil exports’ to North Korea

The US’ top diplomat also accused Russia of propping up the repressive regime of Kim Jong-Un by using North Korean laborers. Continuing to allow North Korean nationals to toil in “slave-like conditions” for wages used to fund nuclear weapons “calls into question Russia’s dedication as a partner for peace,” Tillerson said.

His outburst suggested that the sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the UN were not doing enough to convince the Kim regime to halt its nuclear weapons program or seek negotiations, and that more economic restrictions imposed by individual states were needed.

Tillerson also called on countries that have not implemented sanctions to “consider your interests, allegiances and values in the face of this grave threat.”

US backtracks on its offer for unconditional talks

Tillerson’s speech before the UN council meeting also marked a significant US policy reversal, after the secretary of state had earlier this week proposed holding discussion with Pyongyang without preconditions.

Tillerson was expected on Firday to call on the rogue regime to halt its missile tests before talks could begin. Instead, he changed the script, telling an audience of foreign ministers that “North Korea must earn its way back to the table.”

“The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved. We will in the meantime keep our channels of communication open,” Tillerson said.

The isolated nation has conducted six increasingly powerful atomic tests since 2006 — most recently in September when it supposedly detonated a hydrogen bomb.

Since the beginning of 2017, Pyongyang had conducted missiles tests at a rate of almost two to three per month, but paused in September after it successfully fired a missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and into the Pacific Ocean. At the end of November it then suddenly tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that experts say can fly over 13,000 kilometers.

Japan levies new sanctions on North Korea ahead of UN meeting

Japan announced on Friday that it is expanding its list of sanctions against North Korea, targeting financial services and commodities trading. The list of organizations and people targeted by asset-freezes now includes over 200 entities and individuals, including several from China.

Tokyo’s new measures also target the highly controversial practice of sending North Koreans abroad to work on manual labor projects.

Read more: Japan to purchase offensive missiles capable of striking North Korea

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in an address to media executives in Tokyo that he was certain the sanctions were having an effect.

“It is possible that we will see further provocations. But what’s important is that we do not bow to these threats. The international community must continue to coordinate and apply pressure until North Korea changes its policies and seeks negotiations,” Abe said.

dm/ng (AP, AFP)