The View From Asia

Trump's 'maximum pressure campaign' against Kim

Asia News Network commentators share their concerns about US President Donald Trump's moves to step up pressure on Pyongyang to end its nuclear programme. Here are excerpts:

Prepare for a backlash

Editorial

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan

The United States has placed North Korea on a list of state sponsors of terrorism again.

US President Donald Trump said: "North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, including assassinations on foreign soil."

He revealed that the US Treasury Department will impose large-scale additional sanctions against North Korea and saidthe designation "supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime".

Mr Kim Jong Nam, elder half-brother by a different mother of Mr Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, was murdered in Malaysia in February. There was a strong possibility that Mr Kim Jong Un's regime was systematically involved in the murder.

There was also an incident in which a US college student died shortly after he was returned - in a coma - from North Korea, where he had been detained.

Placing North Korea on the list again is considered reasonable.

The abduction of Japanese citizens is also among the terrorist acts perpetrated by North Korea. The latest development should offer an opportunity to find a way out of the stalemate on this issue.

In line with the redesignation, measures such as restrictions on financial transactions, an arms embargo and bans on economic assistance will be taken.

It is symbolically significant that the US takes the lead in exerting "maximum pressure" on the regime.

A special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping recently visited North Korea. There were no visible results. The US assessment of China's pressure on North Korea as being insufficient seemed to be one of the factors that prompted Mr Trump to go ahead with the redesignation.

A matter of concern is a situation in which the designation may trigger a backlash from North Korea, prompting the country to take reckless action. There has been neither a test-firing of a ballistic missile nor a nuclear test by Pyongyang over the past two months. There is a possibility of the situation's shifting from the current state of a lull.

Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said: "There is no denying (North Korea) may take new provocative action. We will remain on alert and ready to firmly respond."

It is necessary to strengthen preparedness while being vigilant against every possible development.

Kim will remain defiant

Editorial

The Korea Herald, South Korea

The United States is ratcheting up its sanctions on North Korea in line with its commitment to "maximum pressure" aimed at stopping the rogue regime's nuclear and missile menace.

More countries should join the efforts as, excluding military action, economic pressure would be the only solution for now.

New sanctions meted out by the US government targeted one Chinese individual, 13 entities in China and North Korea, and 20 vessels owned by North Korean shipping firms. That the new list included a Chinese individual - the chief executive of a company in a city near North Korea - and four Chinese companies show that the action also seeks to press China, the North's sole remaining ally and the largest benefactor.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made it clear that the latest action is part of Washington's "steadfast determination to maximise economic pressure" to isolate North Korea from outside sources of trade and revenue while exposing its evasive tactics, like ship-to-ship transfers.

The latest sanctions, the sixth of their kind since President Donald Trump took office early this year, marked the first time that the US government blacklisted North Korean vessels. That would close one of the widest loopholes in the efforts to isolate the regime.

These sanctions will surely give North Korea a hard time. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during his recent trip to Asia that the US and China were seeing "clear signs" that sanctions are creating "some stress" for North Korea's economy, citizens and even military. This week, he mentioned long lines being formed at petrol stations in the impoverished country.

But North Korea is unlikely to give in to the sanctions and come back to the negotiation table any time soon. The recent visit of a special Chinese envoy to North Korea should give a clue to its position. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un - apparently intentionally - ignored Mr Song Tao, who made a four-day trip to Pyongyang as an envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is very unusual for a North Korean leader to shun a top envoy from China.

That could be a message that Mr Kim was displeased with what China had been doing over the crisis - including Beijing's participation in the United Nations sanctions - and that he would remain as defiant as ever against the international pressure and even China's advice.

China caught in crosshairs again

Editorial

China Daily, China

The United States slapped fresh sanctions on North Korea, and three Chinese companies were blacklisted as part of what US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the US' "maximum pressure campaign" to isolate Pyongyang.

China keeps getting caught in the crosshairs of this campaign. This is the third time this year that Chinese companies and individuals have fallen victim to US sanctions against North Korea.

US State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said she did not think that targeting more Chinese companies would affect Beijing's cooperation on the North Korea issue.

However, as China's Foreign Ministry said, resorting to long-arm jurisdiction based on its own domestic laws and regulations is the wrong method for forging effective cooperation.

China aims to strictly implement the United Nations Security Council's resolutions, and the US should share any intelligence it might have of Chinese individuals or companies violating them so that China can investigate for itself any contravention of its international obligations.

Talking is the right way to guarantee a good relationship. And, as Beijing has repeatedly said, Washington and Pyongyang need to start talking if lasting stability is to be secured.


  • The View From Asia is a compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner, Asia News Network, a grouping of 23 news media entities.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2017, with the headline 'Trump's 'maximum pressure campaign' against Kim'. Print Edition | Subscribe