President Trump signed an executive order Thursday hitting North Korea with a new round of sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, at the same time as China’s central bank moved to sever financial ties with Pyongyang.
During a meeting at the United Nations with the leaders of South Korea and Japan, Mr. Trump said the actions are aimed at “a complete denuclearization of North Korea.”
“North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development is a grave threat to peace and security in our world,” Mr. Trump said. “It is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal rogue regime.”
The executive order authorizes the Treasury Department to target “any individual or entity that conducts significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea.” The administration also will target industries such as textile, fishing and manufacturing for tougher sanctions.
The president, who told the U.N. Tuesday that he is prepared to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacks the U.S. or its allies, said previous U.S. administrations have allowed the situation to reach a crisis.
“For much too long, North Korea has been allowed to abuse the international financial system to facilitate funding for its nuclear weapons and missile programs,” the president said. “The United States has had representatives working on this problem for over 25 years. They have done nothing. That’s why we’re in the problem we’re in today, in addition to other countries, frankly, not doing what they should have done.”
He declared, “Tolerance for this disgraceful practice must end now.”
Mr. Trump also thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for action Thursday by China’s central bank, which told other Chinese banks to stop doing business immediately with North Korea.
“That was a somewhat unexpected move,” Mr. Trump said.
The president’s announcement capped several days of efforts at the U.N.’s annual meeting to build international support to confront the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. In a speech to the world body Tuesday, Mr. Trump mocked Mr. Kim as “rocket man” and said the North Korean is “on a suicide mission” with his increasingly belligerent actions.
White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Mr. Trump is taking the economic steps to try to resolve the problem “short of war.”
North Korea conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test on Sept. 3, reportedly a hydrogen bomb. It has launched more than a dozen missile tests this year, including two rockets that have flown over Japan, and has threatened to attack the U.S. territory of Guam in the South Pacific.
The U.N. Security Council has approved two rounds of economic sanctions in recent weeks but has stopped short of more drastic steps such as a full oil embargo. Since 2006, the U.N. has slapped nine rounds of sanctions on North Korea.
To prevent evasion of the fresh sanctions, Mr. Trump said, the executive order is designed to “disrupt critical North Korean shipping and trade networks.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in praised Mr. Trump’s speech to the U.N., saying through a translator that “North Korea has continued to make provocations and this is extremely deplorable and this has angered both me and our people, but the U.S. has responded firmly and in a very good way.”
Smiling, Mr. Trump joked that he couldn’t agree more with Mr. Moon’s choice of words.
“I’m very happy that you used the word ‘deplorable,’” Mr. Trump said, eliciting laughter at the reminder of Hillary Clinton’s infamous use of the word during last year’s presidential campaign.
Mr. Trump went on, “I promise, I did not tell them to use that word. That’s been very lucky word for me and many millions of people.”
During the presidential campaign, of course, Mrs. Clinton referred to half of Mr. Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” Mr. Trump viewed it as one of her biggest blunders of the campaign.
Mr. Moon made a plea at the U.N. earlier Thursday to lower tensions with North Korea, warning of accidental war.
“We should manage the North Korea nuclear crisis in a stable manner so that tensions are not escalated too much or peace is not destroyed by accidental military clashes,” Mr. Moon told the U.N. General Assembly.
He also demanded that North Korea “stop its reckless choice” of pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, who is also in New York, belittled Mr. Trump’s aggressive rhetoric.
“If he was thinking he could scare us with the sound of a dog barking, that’s really a dog dream,” he told reporters Wednesday.