THE United States ramped up sanctions aimed at curtailing North Korea’s nuclear weapons drive Thursday, as Kim Jong-Un vowed that Donald Trump’s “deranged” threats would only toughen his resolve.
The US president unveiled the new measures as he met with the leaders of allies Japan and South Korea, even as key international players China and Russia voiced unease with his more aggressive approach.
Two days after threatening in his first address to the UN General Assembly to “totally destroy North Korea,” Trump signed an executive order to ban firms from operating in the United States if they deal with North Korea.
Time will tell whether economic pressure forces Kim to back down, but the young dictator was keen to show the world that he was not intimidated by Trump’s forceful rhetoric, and responded with some of his own.
Kim, whom Trump has nicknamed “Rocket Man”, called the 71-year-old “mentally deranged” and warned that his threats have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last.”
Trump’s most senior cabinet members have joined him in New York for the UN meeting and a week of high-stakes diplomacy, and were on hand to reinforce his message.
“Foreign financial institutions are now on notice that going forward they can choose to do business with the United States or with North Korea, but not both,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
Later, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the UN Security Council: “North Korea may assume that nuclear weapons may ensure the survival of its regime. In truth, nuclear weapons are clearly only leading to greater isolation, ignominy and deprivation.”
The United States already punishes foreign firms tied to North Korea’s military programs but the latest action sharply expands the range, targeting businesses involved in everything from technology to fishing.
Financial companies may feel the biggest impact. Trump’s order also bans any aircraft or ship that has traveled to North Korea from landing in the United States.
The European Union readied its own sanctions. The wealthy bloc agreed to a ban on investments in North Korea and EU exports of oil to the regime, diplomatic sources said in Brussels.
Trump also said China’s central bank had ordered national banks to curb their dealings with North Korea, describing the move from Pyongyang’s key ally as “very bold” and “unexpected.”
This month North Korea has tested its sixth nuclear bomb and has test-fired intercontinental missiles — saying it needs to defend itself against hostility from the United States and its allies.
The US administration has refused to offer North Korea incentives to open negotiations and has ramped up threats of military action to force leader Kim to change course.
But meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump said “Why not?” when asked whether there could be a dialogue with North Korea.