MANILA • China has expressed confidence that new United Nations sanctions, which could cost Pyongyang US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion) a year, would help bring North Korea to the negotiating table. This, in turn, could pave the way for ending its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
At a meeting ahead of today's Asean Regional Forum (ARF) in Manila, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho to react calmly to measures to curb Pyongyang's exports.
"It will help the DPRK (North Korea) to make the right and smart decision," Mr Wang told reporters after the talks. He did not say what Mr Ri told him.
His own message to North Korea, however, was unambiguous. Mr Wang said he had told Mr Ri: "Do not violate the UN decision or provoke the international community's goodwill by conducting missile launches or nuclear tests."
The two foreign ministers will attend the ARF, along with their counterparts from several countries.
Mr Wang also asked the US and South Korea to reduce tensions.
North Korea: What the latest United Nations sanctions entail
North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood are banned. This will deprive the isolated state of one-third of its export earnings estimated at US$3 billion (S$4 billion) a year.
Countries are prohibited from hiring new North Korean labourers, whose earnings are another source of revenue for leader Kim Jong Un's regime.
New joint ventures with North Korea and any new investment in current joint ventures are banned.
Nine North Korean officials and four entities, including North Korea's main foreign exchange bank, are added to the United Nations' sanctions blacklist.
Port calls by designated vessels and chartering of North Korea- flagged vessels are prohibited.
The deployment and use of chemical weapons are banned.
While sanctions are needed, they are not the ultimate goal, he said.
"Only dialogue and negotiation are the correct way out to address the Korean peninsula issue," he said, calling for a resumption of six-party talks, hosted by China and including the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia, to rein in the North's nuclear ambitions.
As North Korea's main ally and biggest trading partner, China has a key role in pressuring North Korean leader Kim Jong Un into halting his push for a nuclear-tipped missile that can hit the US mainland.
All 15 members of the UN Security Council last Saturday unanimously backed a US-drafted resolution that significantly strengthened sanctions against North Korea, in response to its testing of two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) last month.
The sanctions, the first of that scope to be imposed on the North since US President Donald Trump took office, ban North Korea's exports of coal, iron, lead, fish and seafood - stripping a third of its export earnings estimated at US$3 billion a year. They also cap at current levels the number of North Koreans working abroad, whose earnings are another source of foreign currency for the Kim regime.
Mr Trump hailed the vote on Twitter, saying: "The United Nations Security Council just voted 15-0 to sanction North Korea. China and Russia voted with us. Very big financial impact!"
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha said the sanctions are not intended to bring North Korea down, but rather to lead to peaceful denuclearisation.
The UN resolution "condemns in the strongest terms" North Korea's July 4 and July 28 ICBM tests, and adds new individuals and entities, including the Foreign Trade Bank, a state-owned lender that acts as the North's "primary foreign exchange bank", to a UN sanctions list.
The sanctions are the third set to be imposed on North Korea in the past 18 months, following those in March last year and again in November after Pyongyang conducted nuclear tests and launched a rocket.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Mr Trump is not ruling out a "preventive war". "If they had nuclear weapons that can threaten the United States, it is intolerable from the President's perspective," he said in an interview with MSNBC earlier last week that was broadcast on Saturday.
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS