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US exploring options at UN to pressure N. Korea
By Carole LANDRY
United Nations, United States (AFP) May 2, 2017

US envoy pick says will push China on North Korea
Washington (AFP) May 2, 2017 - US President Donald Trump's nominee for ambassador to Beijing said Tuesday he would urge his friend Chinese leader Xi Jinping to honor a commitment to rein in North Korea.

Terry Branstad, governor of Iowa, appeared before the Senate foreign affairs committee to seek confirmation as Washington's next envoy to its biggest rival and trading partner.

The state of Iowa exports around $1.4 billion in farm products like soya and pork to China and Branstad has known Xi since he visited the United States as an agricultural official in 1985.

But he told senators that, while he hopes to build on the relationship, he would not hold back from pressuring China on human rights or Beijing's maritime territorial ambitions.

And he said it would be vital for China to properly enforce United Nations sanctions on North Korea in order to dissuade Kim Jong-Un's isolated regime from building more nuclear weapons.

"They have not abided by these United Nations resolutions and I think what's happening right now with North Korea is an example of why that needs to change," Branstad warned.

"I also think that they recognize... that this nuclear obsession that the leadership of North Korea has, with the guided missiles and everything, is a serious threat to humankind.

"And we need to all look at ways that we can work together. I hope that with my long-time relationship with the leader of China I can convey to him that we sincerely want to work with them."

Branstad was cautious when asked whether Washington might seek to punish Beijing if it again allows North Korea to by-pass international sanctions.

But he admitted "there may well be" a role for action against Chinese banks that work with the Pyongyang regime, which is testing missiles that might one day be capable of hitting US cities.

During last year's presidential campaign, Trump was a strident critic of China, accusing it of manipulating its currency to boost its exports at US expense.

And just ahead of his inauguration, Trump threatened to plunge bilateral relations into crisis by suggesting that he might review US support for the "One China" policy.

But once in office, Trump distanced himself from both positions and last month he had warm words for Xi after the great power leaders met at his Florida golf resort.

Branstad told the senators China had kept its currency artificially low in the past but no longer does so, and he vowed to push Beijing to open its market to more US exports.

His testimony was well-received by both Republican and Democratic senators and his confirmation as ambassador by the full Senate is now expected to be a formality.

The United States is exploring options at the UN Security Council to ramp up pressure on North Korea after it test-fired a ballistic missile.

"The cumulative actions of the DPRK since their last nuclear test compel us to look at a range of measures that would apply pressure," the spokesperson for the US mission to the United Nations said Tuesday.

"We are exploring options for a response to this series of provocations with our Security Council colleagues."

Diplomats said the United States was in discussion with China on the council response, including possibly sanctions, to Saturday's failed missile launch.

The United States initially sought a statement of condemnation, but the discussions shifted to targeted sanctions and possibly a draft resolution with tougher measures, diplomats said.

North Korea on Saturday carried out a failed missile launch, just hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged the council to impose new sanctions, warning that a failure to act could lead to "catastrophic consequences."

The latest failed launch "only reinforced our resolve" to increase the economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, said a Security Council diplomat.

North Korea is seeking to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five atomic tests since 2006, two of them last year.

- A shift from China -

Washington has repeatedly called for stronger UN sanctions, but wants China, North Korea's main trading partner and ally, to toughen its approach.

"The Chinese are very concerned and they are increasing the pressure," said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Definitely, my assessment is that they have shifted."

Over the past 11 years, the Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions on Pyongyang -- two adopted last year -- to significantly ramp up pressure and deny Kim Jong-Un's regime the hard currency revenue needed for his military programs.

On Monday, North Korea said it will carry out a nuclear test "at any time and at any location" set by its leadership, fueling fears in the region of an escalation.

At the council meeting on Friday, Tillerson called on all countries to downgrade or sever diplomatic relations with North Korea and impose targeted sanctions on entities and individuals supporting its missile and nuclear program.

The US chief diplomat pushed for a ban on North Korea foreign workers sent abroad to earn hard currency for Pyongyang, and cutting off all North Korean imports, especially coal.

In November, the council adopted the toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea, imposing a cap on coal exports among other measures, but the measure took three months of negotiations between the United States and China.

A council diplomat said the talks between the United States and China were unlikely to yield results in the coming days.

UN experts have reported to the council that the series of sanctions have had little impact on Pyongyang, which has forged ahead with its nuclear and ballistic missile program.

US President Donald Trump on Monday said he would be "honored" to meet Kim Jong-Un in a move a UN diplomat described as a "carrot" dangled in front of Pyongyang if it changes course and halts its military programs.

Trump would be 'honored' to meet N.Korea's Kim, if conditions right
Washington (AFP) May 1, 2017
US President Donald Trump on Monday said he would not rule out meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, under the right conditions, as Pyongyang threatens to carry out a sixth nuclear test. Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high for weeks, with signs the North might be preparing a long-range missile launch or a new nuclear test - prompting tough talk from Washington, which ... read more

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