Trump threatens to get 'very rough' against North Korea if 'heaviest sanctions ever imposed' don't succeed
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announces that the Trump administration is hitting more than 50 vessels, shipping companies, and trade businesses with sanctions in a bid to turn up the pressure on North Korea over its nuclear program. (Feb. 23)
WASHINGTON – Hours after his administration slapped new sanctions on North Korea, President Trump on Friday threatened “very rough” action if economic pressure doesn’t force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.
“If the sanctions don’t work, we’ll have to go to phase two, and phase two may be a very rough thing,” Trump said during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
He did not specify what “phase two” might involve, but he warned, “It may be very, very unfortunate for the world.”
Trump and aides have not ruled out a military response to North Korea’s nuclear threats.
Earlier in the day, the Trump administration targeted ships and companies helping North Korea to evade international sanctions Friday, the latest move in the U.S. effort to pressure dictator Kim Jong Un into giving up his nuclear weapons program.
The sanctions target 56 vessels, shipping companies and trade businesses that the United States accuses of assisting North Korea to evade sanctions. Speaking to conservative activists outside Washington on Friday, Trump described the penalties as “the heaviest sanctions ever imposed” on a country.
“Through today’s actions, we are putting companies and countries across the world on notice,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. “Those who trade with North Korea do so at their own peril.”
The sanctions, he said, “shine a spotlight on the practices employed by the government of North Korea to falsify identification information on ships and illicit cargo.”
The Trump administration released photos of ships that had doctored registration numbers exchanging cargo with North Korean vessels at sea. One photo, taken last December, shows a Panamanian-flagged ship exchanging what could be oil with a North Korean ship — which was masquerading as a Chinese vessel.
Mnuchin would not discuss whether the sanctions would be enforced by a full naval blockade of North Korea. He noted that United Nations Security Council resolutions allow the United States to board and inspect the cargo of any vessel with the consent of the country whose flag flies on the ship.
The new actions, on the eve of closing ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, had been in the works for months but came “as soon as they were ready,” Mnuchin said. The Trump administration had signaled the sanctions for weeks, including during a visit by Vice President Pence to South Korea this month.
In his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, Pence said, “We will keep standing strong until North Korea stops threatening our country, our allies, or until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missiles once and for all.”
Ivanka Trump arrived in Seoul on Friday to lead the U.S. delegation to the closing ceremonies, and Mnuchin said she had been briefed on the sanctions and informed South Korean President Moon Jae In of them personally.
“My daughter, Ivanka, just arrived in South Korea,” Trump tweeted hours before his speech. “We cannot have a better, or smarter, person representing our country.”