Trump says more has to be done to deter North Korea

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that a new round of United Nations Security Council sanctions will not enough to keep North Korea in check.

The sanctions that unanimously passed the 15-nation body are just a ‘small step’ and ‘not a big deal,’ the United States president said. 

‘I don’t know if it has any impact,’ Trump said Tuesday during a meeting with the Malaysian prime minister at the White House. ‘But those sanctions are nothing to what ultimately will have to happen.’ 

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that a new round of United Nations Security Council sanctions will not enough to keep North Korea in check

The prohibition on new guest workers and textile exports was not nearly as strong a response to the Pyongyang’s unruly behavior as the United States had wanted. Trump’s administration was pushing for a total ban on crude oil imports.

It had to settle for an extension of the current cap to get the resolution through.

Experts say the measures will lead to deep cuts to Kim Jong-Un’s hard currency, making it more difficult for him to develop his nuclear program.

Legislators that sit on relevant policy making committees agree with the president, though, that the U.S., at least, has to do more to deter Kim.

The security council vote imposed the ninth round of sanctions on Pyongyang since 2006. The sanctions are intended to undercut funding for the nation’s illicit missile and nuclear programs.

North Korea conducted its sixth illicit nuclear test on Sept. 3, prompting anther round of international sanctions.

Though the United States had proposed a complete ban, the sanctions by the U.N. Security Council to punish North Korea for its sixth nuclear test cap Pyongyang’s annual imports of crude oil at the same level they have been for the past 12 months: an estimated 4 million barrels. 

Exports of North Korean textiles are prohibited, and other nations are barred from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers, putting a squeeze on two key sources of hard currency.  

North Korea’s top envoy to a leading U.N. disarmament body said Tuesday his country ‘categorically’ rejects the new sanctions.

Ambassador Han Tae Song also lashed out at the United States during a session of the U.N.’s Conference on Disarmament, saying North Korea denounces Washington’s ‘evil intention’ and would ‘make sure the U.S. pays a due price.’

The new measures are sure to cause North Korea more economic pain. Textiles are one of North Korea’s major exports, with a total export value estimated at $750 million in 2016, and the tens of thousands of North Koreans working overseas send a significant portion of their earnings home to the regime. 

The measures also clamp down on joint ventures, which could stifle the North’s ability to trade and to acquire capital and know-how.

But what Washington failed to get was equally telling.

Along with settling for the compromise on oil, the U.S. unsuccessfully tried to get a travel ban and freezes on the assets of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Air Koryo, the North’s flagship airline. 

The U.S. proposed slashing projects employing North Korean workers abroad, but instead accepted sanctions aimed at gradually scaling them back.

The weakening of the sanctions reflects the longstanding rift between sanctions hawk Washington, and China and Russia, which advocate direct talks and more efforts to find a resolution through negotiations. 

The U.S. has rejected proposals from both countries that it stop joint military exercises with South Korea in exchange for a halt to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

Both Beijing and Moscow had strong words for Washington.

China’s U.N. ambassador urged the council to adopt the freeze-for-freeze proposal and urged the U.S. to pledge not to seek regime change or North Korea’s collapse. 

Russia’s envoy said Washington’s unwillingness to have U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres try to resolve the dispute ‘gives rise to very serious questions in our minds.’ 

U.S. lawmakers called on Tuesday for a ‘supercharged’ diplomatic response to North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile program, including unilateral sanctions on banks and companies from China and other countries that do business with Pyongyang.

‘I believe the response from the United States and our allies should be supercharged,’ said Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

‘We need to use every ounce of leverage… to put maximum pressure on this rogue regime,’ he said at a committee hearing on ways to pressure North Korea. ‘Time is running out.’

But lawmakers insisted any military option should be a last resort.

‘It’s hard to overstate just how devastating a conflict on the Korean peninsula would be,’ said Representative Eliot Engel, the committee’s top Democrat. ‘If this conflict escalates into a war, we could be measuring the cost in millions of lives lost.’

Repeated sanctions have failed to deter North Korea’s weapons program. But Royce, who said he had breakfast with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday before the hearing, insisted that sanctions could still have an important impact.

He said the United States does not need China’s cooperation to pressure North Korea.

‘We can designate Chinese banks and companies unilaterally, giving them a choice between doing business with North Korea or the United States,’ he said.

‘We should go after banks and companies in other countries that do business with North Korea the same way,’ he said.