UN Security Council to confer on North Korea nuclear program

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Turning to diplomacy after flexing military muscle, the United States will urge the U.N. Security Council on Friday to increase economic pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, leaning on China in particular to turn the screws on its wayward ally.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with his counterparts from allies Japan and South Korea and was set to chair a ministerial meeting of the U.N.’s top decision-making body. The U.S. wants to tighten the implementation of sanctions and build international resolve to isolate North Korea so it eventually disarms.

That’s a goal that has eluded U.S. administrations for two decades, and the threat is intensifying. North Korea may already be able to strike its U.S.-allied neighbors with a nuclear-tipped missile, and could have the U.S. mainland within range by the end of President Donald Trump’s first term.

Tensions on and around the divided Korean Peninsula have been running high. In an attempt to deter North Korea from more nuclear and missile testing, the U.S. has sent a group of American warships led by an aircraft carrier to the region. North Korea this week conducted large-scale, live-fire exercises on its eastern coast.

“Right now, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is under very grave tension and at a critical point,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters Friday.

However, after weeks of unusually blunt military threats, the Trump administration announced this week its policy is to exert economic and diplomatic pressure with international partners to achieve denuclearization and said it is not aiming for regime change in North Korea. Officials say, however, a military strike is still an option.

While the U.S. is calling for global action, it says the onus is on China to ramp up pressure on North Korea, its main trading partner and source of food and fuel aid. China wants North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program but is wary of destabilizing its traditional ally,…

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