North Korea tensions mount over tough new sanctions at Manila meeting

The ASEAN delegates

The ASEAN delegates

China, the North's principal ally and economic lifeline, agreed to fully implement the latest round of sanctions, which will slash around $1 billion (850 million euro), or roughly one-third, of the reclusive state's export revenue.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes his pressure campaign against North Korea to Asian leaders on Sunday as the USA intensifies its efforts to isolate Pyongyang. At an emergency Security Council session at the beginning of July, Russia expressed doubt that the missile launched was, in fact, an ICBM, while both China and Russia rejected the idea of sanctions or military escalation.

On North Korea, China has continually pushed back on any efforts to clamp down on the regime, even after the launch of two intercontinental ballistic missiles by North Korea in July, during which time China held the presidency of the Security Council. Lindsey Graham said last week that he believes military action against North Korea is "inevitable" and that "if there's going to be a war to stop them, it will be over there. We must be tough and decisive!"

"Certainly we want to resolve this issue through negotiations, and this pressure campaign, the sanctions, it's all about trying to convince the North Koreans that the fast way forward is to come back to the table and talk", said Susan Thornton, assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

The possibility of escalation is made even more acute by the lack of any means of official communication across the Demilitarized Zone, though there has been no easing of the barrage of inflammatory comments in the USA and the North since new sanctions against North Korea were announced last week. Ri also said Pyongyang will "under no circumstances" negotiate anything to do with its nuclear or ballistic missile programs. In return for a missile moratorium, Beijing and Moscow say the USA should undertake to end "large-scale" military exercises with South Korea. While North Korea regularly threatens to destroy the United States and its allies, the report was unusual in its detail. An announcement was initially planned for last Friday but was postponed, apparently after China softened its resistance to new United Nations sanctions, diplomats said.

"North Korea's response is expected, because they have their own position", Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Manila on Monday night.

Wang Yi described talks with North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho as "very thorough" and advised him to calmly assess the United Nations resolutions and not carry out further nuclear tests that would only stoke tensions.

But it remains cautious of triggering a North Korean collapse, fearful of fomenting chaos along its border or advancing any scenario that would lead to a reunified and US -allied Korea on its doorstep. It also limits the number of North Koreans permitted to work overseas, and bars countries from entering into new joint ventures with North Korea or investing in current ones.

A similar stance was also emphasized in an earlier statement made via the North Korean regime's official KCNA news agency, in which the North threatened to take "righteous action" and make the USA "pay the price for its crime... thousands of times" for drafting the sanctions.

"It was a very, very good outcome", added South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. Earlier Pyongyang said it was ready to give Washington a "severe lesson" with its strategic nuclear force in response to any USA military action. -South Korea drills begin.

The sanctions also bar countries from employing North Korean laborers commissioned to work overseas.

Countries worldwide are responding, cutting back on North Korean guest worker programs, flights and diplomatic missions, United States officials say.

For Tillerson's interlocutors worldwide, this is beginning to be a familiar experience: When the top U.S. diplomat meets with counterparts, many are finding that he's arriving prepared with information on their countries' connections to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and suggestions on how they can reduce them.

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