President Trump took to Twitter late Sunday night to announce that he spoke with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Mr. Trump wrote: “Just completed call with President Moon of South Korea. Very happy and impressed with 15-0 United Nations vote on North Korea sanctions.”
The tweet comes a day after the United Nations Security Council endorsed new North Korea sanctions over its recent tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The White House issued a statement to CBS News saying in part that the two leaders are “committed” to the sanctions and urge the international community to follow suit.
“The two leaders affirmed that North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat to the United States, South Korea, and Japan, as well as to most countries around the world,” the statement read. “The leaders committed to fully implement all relevant resolutions and to urge the international community to do so as well.”
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the vote showed the Security Council came together to put North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “on notice” by “matching its words with actions.”
“North Korea’s irresponsible and careless acts have just proved to be quite costly to the regime,” Haley said after the successful vote. She hailed the resolution as the “single largest economic sanctions package ever leveled against the North Korean regime.”
The resolution was adopted in direct response to the North’s firing of two ICBMs in the past month. It will ban exports of mineral and seafood products worth over $1 billion — a third of the country’s total exports last year.
Meanwhile, a welcome boost came from China on Sunday, the North’s economic lifeline, as Beijing called on its neighbor to halt its missile and nuclear tests.
The Trump administration cautiously embraced China’s apparent newfound cooperation, saying that the U.S. would be watching closely to ensure it didn’t ease up on North Korea if and when the world’s attention is diverted elsewhere.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said earlier Sunday, “It was a good outcome.”
For the U.S., it was a long-awaited sign of progress for Trump’s strategy of trying to enlist Beijing’s help to squeeze North Korea diplomatically and economically. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, meeting with North Korea’s top diplomat during the gathering in Manila, urged the North to “maintain calm” despite the U.N. vote.
“Do not violate the U.N.’s decision or provoke international society’s goodwill by conducting missile launching or nuclear tests,” Wang said, in an unusually direct admonition.
Tillerson did not meet with North Korea’s envoy, Ri Yong Ho. In fact, on his first day in Manila, Tillerson appeared to go out of his way to avoid crossing paths with Ri.
Would Tillerson interact with his North Korean counterpart, even informally, if they crossed paths in Manila? It was a question driving the hallway chatter at the gathering, but the U.S. shot down that prospect and said Tillerson had no plans to interact with Ri.
Tillerson, who was scheduled to attend a gala dinner Sunday, skipped it. Ri did not. The North Korean was spotted at the gala smiling and toasting with the other foreign ministers.
Tillerson aide R.C. Hammond said that after a productive first day, Tillerson spent several hours preparing for Day 2. Instead, the U.S. was represented at the dinner by Thornton, whose official title is acting assistant secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs.
Though Tillerson has emphasized the Trump administration’s willingness to sit down with North Korea for negotiations, he’s said that won’t happen until the North agrees to abandon its nuclear aspirations. Even with new U.N. sanctions in place intended to drive Pyongyang back to the table, conditions still aren’t ripe for talks, U.S. diplomats said.
But Wang, the Chinese envoy, cast Ri’s presence in Manila as a positive, enabling him to “hear the voices from other sides.” Speaking in Chinese, Wang said that Ri “also has the right to share his opinions.”
Ri hasn’t spoken publicly since arriving in the Philippines. But a commentary in the ruling party’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Washington had disregarded the warning the North sent with its intercontinental ballistic missile tests and was pursuing “desperate efforts” in the form of stepped-up sanctions.
“Now the U.S. mainland is on the crossroads of life and death,” the commentary warned.