Secretary Tillerson on North Korea: ‘The Policy of Strategic Patience is Over’

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chairs a UN Security Council Meeting on Denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) at the United Nations in New York City on April 28, 2017.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chairs a UN Security Council Meeting on Denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) at the United Nations in New York City on April 28, 2017.

Secretary Tillerson on North Korea: ‘The Policy of Strategic Patience is Over’

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to New York City today to chair a special ministerial meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea --North Korea-- to international peace and security through its pursuit of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other weapons of mass destruction as well as its other prohibited activities.

The meeting gave UN Security Council members an opportunity to discuss ways to maximize the impact of existing Security Council measures and to show their resolve to respond to further provocations with appropriate new measures. In his remarks, Secretary Tillerson noted, “Having for years displayed a pattern of behavior that defies multiple UN Security Council resolutions, including 2321 and 2270, and erodes global progress on nuclear nonproliferation, there is no reason to think that North Korea will change its behavior under the current multilateral sanctions framework."

“For too long, the international community has been reactive in addressing North Korea.  Those days must come to an end.”

Secretary Tillerson urge the UN Security council “to act before North Korea does.” He emphasized the need for the Security Council to work together to adopt a new approach and impose increased diplomatic and economic pressures on the North Korean regime. According to  the Secretary the new campaign recommended by the United States is driven by our national security considerations, and is welcomed by many nations who are concerned for their own security.

Secretary Tillerson outlined the following immediate actions be taken by UN member-states:

First, we call on UN member-states to fully implement the commitments they have made regarding North Korea.  This includes all measures required in Resolutions 2321 and 2270.

Those nations which have not fully enforced these resolutions fully discredit this body.

Second, we call on countries to suspend or downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea.  North Korea exploits its diplomatic privileges to fund its illicit nuclear and missile technology programs, and constraining its diplomatic activity will cut off a flow of needed resources.  In light of North Korea’s recent actions, normal relations with the DPRK are simply not acceptable.

Third, we must increase North Korea’s financial isolation.  We must levy new sanctions on DPRK entities and individuals supporting its weapons and missile programs, and tighten those that are already in place.  The United States also would much prefer countries and people in question to own up to their lapses and correct their behavior themselves, but we will not hesitate to sanction third-country entities and individuals supporting the DPRK’s illegal activities.

Secretary Tillerson then acknowledged the unique trade relationship China has with the DPRK and noted the United States and China have held very productive exchanges on this issue. The Secretary reiterated that all options for responding to future provocation must remain on the table. He said, “Diplomatic and financial levers of power will be backed up by a willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action if necessary.  We much prefer a negotiated solution to this problem.  But we are committed to defending ourselves and our allies against North Korean aggression.”

Secretary Tillerson asked for full and complete compliance by every country to the resolutions that have been enacted by the UNSC in the past, emphasizing that now is not the time for relaxing the vigorous implementation of sanctions.  And noted the United States has called for those sanctions to be extended to other areas as well on a voluntary basis, and is calling globally for all countries to participate in exerting pressure on DPRK.

In his closing thoughts before representatives of the UNSC, Secretary Tillerson made clear, “Any failure to take action diminishes your vote for these resolutions of the past, and diminishes your vote for future resolutions, and it devalues your seat at this council.  We must have full, complete compliance by all members of the council.”

Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.