United Nations expands North Korea sanctions in response to missile tests

Meanwhile, China's ambassador to the U.N., Liu Jieyi, adopted a more conciliatory tone in a speech to the council Friday.

The United States is encouraged by China's efforts to restrain North Korea but Washington will not accept Beijing's militarization of islands in the South China Sea, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Saturday.

One week, North Korea fires off a ballistic missile, then U.S. B-1 bombers stretch their wings over South Korea.

"It is important to keep searching for a political solution", he said.

"It is going to take time for the actions that China is taking to have affect in terms of North Korea", said David Helvey, a senior US defense official dealing with Asian and Pacific security affairs.

It expresses "gravest concern" that the North's nuclear and missile activities are generating "increased tension in the region and beyond" and continue to threaten worldwide peace and security. Huxley and Benjamin Schreer, who heads the Department of Security Studies and Criminology at Australia's Macquarie University, warned in a recent article for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that failing to do so will fuel "the perception - particularly in Southeast Asia - that the United States is effectively ceding its regional leadership to China", and this perception "will only become more pervasive and more influential with regard to Asian countries' policy choices". Just hours after the meeting - chaired by Tillerson during his first visit to the United Nations as the top US diplomat - Pyongyang launched yet another ballistic missile.

Speaking at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue forum, Gen Mattis said: "We oppose countries militarising artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims".

Moscow still believes that further confrontation with Pyongyang may have serious consequences for the region.

Expect Mr Mattis to reassure allies of Washington's commitment to the region; but notably absent will be a reference to the "rules-based order", which Trump appears to have shunned. "If we speak to each other in language of ultimatums, we will never move forward from this point".

An annex to the resolution adds another 14 individuals and four entities accused of contributing to the programmes to a lengthy blacklist; their assets would be frozen and they would face a travel ban. Treasury also sanctioned one of the company's subsidiaries, AO NNK-Primornefteproduct.

The strategic rocket force of the North Korean army, two trading firms and the Koryo Bank, linked to a party office that manages Kim's finances, were also hit by an assets freeze.

The U.S. focus on North Korea has been sharpened by dozens of North Korean missile launches - the most recent of which was on Monday - and two nuclear bomb tests since the beginning of a year ago.

The Security Council has already imposed six rounds of sanctions on North Korea, and the United States has been pushing for new and tougher measures.

The first individual on the proposed new blacklist is Cho Il U, believed to be the overseas espionage and intelligence chief who is identified as the director of the Fifth Bureau of the Reconnaissance General Bureau.

"The irony here is, if China amped up economic pressure on North Korea, it might lead to a collapse - which would mean more refugees even if a military conflict doesn't take place", said Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative-leaning DC think tank.

The State Affairs Commission, which replaced the National Defense Commission a year ago, is known to be the North's "supreme policy guidance organ" and is chaired by leader Kim Jong-un.

  • Joanne Flowers