US vows to press China to enforce North Korea sanctions, says Washington's UN ambassador

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a Security Council meeting on North Korea at the UN headquarters in New York on July 5, 2017.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a Security Council meeting on North Korea at the UN headquarters in New York on July 5, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States will crank up pressure on China to ensure that it implements sanctions against North Korea over its missile tests, Washington's ambassador to the United Nations pledged on Sunday (July 9).

After North Korea conducted its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test last week (July 4), Ms Nikki Haley said that while the US wanted to avoid conflict, it was determined to halt North Korea's nuclear drive.

"The fact that they launched an ICBM test is hugely dangerous not just for us, but for so many of our friends in the world, and we've got to put a stop to it," Ms Haley told CBS television.

Ms Haley told the UN Security Council last week that the US planned a new resolution which would ramp up sanctions on North Korea but also ensure that existing measures are enforced.

China is North Korea's main ally and the US has become increasingly frustrated at what it sees as Beijing's failure to ensure the existing sanctions against the regime of Mr Kim Jong Un are fully implemented.

"It will be very telling based on how other countries respond - whether they want to hold Kim Jong Un's hand through this process or whether they want to be on the side of so many countries who know that this is a dangerous person with the access to an ICBM," said Ms Haley.

"So we're going to fight hard on this. We're going to push hard not just on North Korea, we're going to push hard on other countries who are not abiding by the resolutions and not abiding by the sanctions against North Korea," she added.

"And we're going to push hard against China because 90 per cent of the trade that happens with North Korea is from China, and so while they have been helpful, they need to do more."

While the Trump administration has tried to enlist China's help in persuading North Korea to put the brakes on its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, it has shown signs of giving up on Beijing.

President Donald Trump raised eyebrows last month (June) with a tweet concluding that China's efforts had "not worked out", and Washington recently slapped sanctions on a Chinese bank linked to North Korea and infuriated Beijing with announcement of a new arms sale to Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province.

Asked if China had let the US down, Ms Haley said that "they actually followed through on the things that we asked them to", including by suspending coal imports, choking off a key source of hard currency for Pyongyang.

"Now we have to say, okay, clearly that's not enough," she said. "With the Security Council resolution that we're negotiating now, we don't expect a watered down resolution, it will be very telling as to whether China works with us, which we are hoping that they will."