WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the new United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea are “just another very small step” toward curbing the country’s nuclear program.
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Monday to enact additional sanctions and strengthen existing ones against the isolated country following its sixth and largest nuclear test to date on September 2. The measures marked the ninth time the diplomatic body has acted to rein in the country’s weapons program.
Trump made the comments at the top of a meeting at the White House with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who he commended for no longer doing business with North Korea. Trump said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and he agreed that the U.N. move was “not big.”
“It’s just another very small step — not a big deal… I don’t know if it has any impact, but certainly it was nice to get a 15-to-nothing vote. But those sanctions are nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen,” Trump said without elaborating.
The sanctions ban all North Korean textile exports, which accounts for the country’s largest economic sector that the U.N. had not previously restricted. They also cap the amount of oil North Korea can import, ban most joint commercial ventures with North Korean, add further restrictions to the use of North Korean oversea laborers and add measures allowing vessels to be inspected to thwart smuggling by North Korea.
Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday on U.S. efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program, Assistant Treasury Secretary Marshall Billingslea described how the U.S. intelligence community has observed vessels flagged to varying countries turn off their transponders and collect banned North Korean coal.
The U.S. had advocated for additional and stronger sanctions in the U.N. package, but toned down the plan to get the support of China and Russia.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly told a conference organized by CNBC Tuesday that if China does not fully implement the new round of sanctions, the U.S. “will put additional sanctions on them and prevent them from accessing the U.S. and international dollar system — and that’s quite meaningful.”
The new sanctions package drew an expected rebuke from North Korea. The country’s ambassador to the U.N., Han Tae Song, told the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva that North Korea “will make the U.S. suffer the greatest pain” in response to the measures, according to Reuters.
“The Washington regime fired up for political, economic, and military confrontation, (is) obsessed with the wild game of reversing the DPRK’s development of nuclear force which has already reached the completion phase,” he said.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert disclosed Monday that the State Department special representative for North Korea policy, Joseph Yun, visited Moscow Monday as the U.N. voted on the new sanctions.