US, Japan, S. Korea Urge Strict Sanctions Enforcement Against N. Korea
by Mary Alice Salinas March 31, 2016
President Barack Obama and the leaders of Japan and South Korea on Thursday urged the international community to "vigilantly enforce" tougher U.N. sanctions against North Korea following Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests this year.
After meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, Obama, South Korean President Park Guen-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed the longtime allies would stand together and tighten security cooperation in the face of rising tensions.
"One of the topics now most on our minds is the issue of North Korea, and we are united in our efforts to deter and defend against North Korean provocations," Obama said with the three leaders seated side by side.
"We agreed during this meeting that trilateral security cooperation is essential in maintaining peace and stability in Northeast Asia, deterring the North Koreans' nuclear threat and the potential of nuclear proliferation as a consequence of North Korean activities," he added.
North Korea has been roundly condemned for conducting a nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch in February, violating several U.N. Security Council resolutions.
In March, the council passed a resolution imposing tougher sanctions on Pyongyang. They require mandatory inspections of all North Korean cargo and ban the export of most of the country's mineral trade that has been used to fund its nuclear development program.
About 90 percent of North Korean trade flows through or to China, so Beijing's enforcement of the tighter sanctions is critical.
The U.S. has been encouraging China to press harder on North Korea to stop its nuclear provocations. Obama also met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit Thursday.
Since North Korea's aggressive actions this year, Washington and its allies have started talks on the possible deployment the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea, a move likely to raise tensions with Beijing.
"Insofar as we continue to face the threat from North Korean provocations, we have to take necessary measures to protect ourselves and our allies," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, who acknowledged Beijing has stepped up its pressure on Pyongyang.
"We've had good support from China, but we clearly believe that there's more that will continue to have to be done, including on enforcing the sanctions we've put into place," he added.
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