UPDATE — 8/14, 10:31 a.m. EDT: Following weeks of threatening rhetoric between the Washington and Pyongyang following UN sanctions levied against North Korea, China’s customs agency announced Monday it will place an embargo on North Korean imports starting in September.
Specifically, China will no longer accept North Korean coal, iron and seafood starting on Sept. 5.
North Korea’s exports totaled approximately $3 billion in 2016, $1 billion of which is targeted in the latest round of UN sanctions passed earlier in August.
Days after North Korea test-launched what it claims is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters Tuesday that America does not aim to solve the Korean peninsula crisis by toppling Kim Jong-un’s regime.
Offering a softer tone than in the past, Tillerson laid out a new course which he hopes will bring stability in the region. Outlining America’s position, Tillerson said the U.S. doesn’t seek regime change or Kim’s ouster.
“We are trying to convey to the North Koreans, we are not your enemy, we are not your threat, but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us, and we have to respond.”
“We hope that at some point, they would begin to understand that and then we would like to sit and have a dialogue with them about the future that will give them the security they seek and the future economic prosperity for North Korea,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson’s comments were not only related to Pyongyang. Mentioning China, the secretary said Beijing is not at fault, but can and must play a pivotal role in facilitating fruitful conversation with Kim’s regime.
The State Department appears at odds with both the White House and U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley. Haley tweeted on July 30 she was “done” talking about North Korea. Although vague, many speculate Haley’s tweet was a call for significant action from the UN.
Similarly, Tillerson’s statements contrast with President Trump, largely due to his lashing out at China, claiming President Xi has not fulfilled a role in reining in the hermit state.
Senate Armed Services Committee member Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also said Tuesday on NBC that Trump told him the U.S. will strike North Korea “if they continued to try to hit America with an ICBM.”
“There is a military option: To destroy North Korea’s program and North Korea itself,” Graham continued. “I prefer the diplomatic approach. But they will not be allowed to have a missile to hit America with a nuclear weapon on top.”
Despite the conflict, Tillerson concluded his Tuesday with a hint, saying alternatives to conversation are not “particularly attractive.”
[The Hill] [Reuters] [AP]