US official: Maximum pressure on North Korea until progress
Updated 8:23 pm, Monday, March 12, 2018
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.S. national security adviser said Monday that the U.N. Security Council supports President Donald Trump's optimism about the opportunity for a diplomatic solution in North Korea — and his intention to keep up maximum pressure until there is "real progress" toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
H.R. McMaster told reporters after briefing the council that Trump approved the maximum pressure strategy against North Korea about a year ago and that the president wanted to thank council members "for their unity and resolve" in adopting tough sanctions against North Korea.
"It has us now to a point where we may be able to pursue a diplomatic solution to the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," McMaster said. "So we're determined to pursue that course."
Trump agreed four days ago to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by May. But Washington has yet to hear directly from Pyongyang on the invitation extended by Kim via South Korean intermediaries.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, standing beside McMaster, said successively tough Security Council sanctions resolutions adopted unanimously have cut off all North Korean exports, 90 percent of its trade, and disbanded its pool of workers send abroad to earn hard currency.
This was an example of sanctions working and it ratcheted up pressure, she said. "Then you had the courage of our President Trump to say, 'OK, let's try and bring this together.'"
McMaster said he talked to the Security Council about keeping up the campaign of maximum pressure.
"We all agreed that we're optimistic about this opportunity," McMaster said, "but we're determined — we're determined to keep up the campaign of maximum pressure until we see words matched with deeds and real progress toward denuclearization."
Security Council members and the South Korean and Japanese ambassadors reacted positively after the closed meeting at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
Japan's U.N. ambassador, Koro Bessho, called it "a good meeting."
Peruvian Ambassador Gustavo Mesa-Cuadra said the briefing was "very useful for Security Council members."
"Basically, it was not more information than has been already," he said. "But it was the way that the administration understands this step they are taking with North Korea. So, it was very helpful to understand how this process is taking place."
Ambassador Cho Tae-yul of South Korea told reporters that the U.S. and council members discussed "where we are now and where to go from here in terms of dealing with North Korean issues."
McMaster put "special emphasis on the need to keep up the pressure until North Korea's words match with their actions," he said.
"All of the members welcomed the recent developments in the inter-Korean dialogue and the possibility of a dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington," Cho added. "And I emphasized that this is also the once in a lifetime opportunity for the peaceful resolution of the issue — so we have to keep up the momentum on that."