September 18, 2015 09:38
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday warned of "severe consequences" if North Korea continues to develop its nuclear weapons and missiles.
"There will be severe consequences as we go forward if North Korea does not refrain from its irresponsible provocations that aggravate regional concerns, make the region less safe, and if it refuses to live up to its international obligations," Kerry told reporters.
He added that economic sanctions may not be enough to persuade the regime. "It may take more than sanctions with respect to North Korea because of its almost total absence of a legitimate economy," he said.
The remarks come after North Korea threatened earlier this week to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. and hinted at an intercontinental ballistic missile test, both ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Workers Party on Oct. 10.
"Our position is clear: we will not accept... North Korea... as a nuclear weapons state, just as we said that about Iran," Kerry added.
Kerry pointed out the contrast with Iran, which unlike North Korea has extensive trade and financial interests and wants to sell its oil, which made sanctions more effective.
Asked what the U.S. could do other than impose trade sanctions, Kerry pointed to the North's growing diplomatic isolation. "China for instance has taken serious steps in the last year, year and a half, since we engaged China on this subject specifically to encourage them to do more, and they have," he said.
But he also envisages "comprehensive sanctions" which would subject not only American firms that do business with the North but firms in third countries to U.S. penalties. A relevant bill has already been submitted to Congress.
Under current UN Security Council resolutions, exports and imports related to missile and nuclear and chemical weapons to and from the North are banned and ships suspected of carrying contraband items can be stopped and searched on the open seas.
UN member states are banned from providing financial services to the North in connection with its violation of the UNSC resolutions or from supplying it with bulk cash.
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