U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted Friday that the international community must continue to keep the pressure on North Korea to denuclearize.
"Strict enforcement of sanctions is critical to our achieving this goal," Pompeo told reporters after a series of quick meetings Friday at the United Nations in New York. "When sanctions are not enforced, the prospects for the successful denuclearization of North Korea are diminished."
Pompeo held one-on-one sessions with his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha, and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. He also briefed the full U.N. Security Council plus Japan on his latest trip to Pyongyang, which occurred earlier this month. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley accompanied the secretary.
The top U.S. diplomat warned that North Korea is trying to get around the sanctions, smuggling petroleum products into the country by sea at levels that exceed what is allowed under international sanctions.
"These illegal ship-to-ship transfers are the most prominent means by which these transfers are happening," Pompeo said. "These transfers happened at least 89 times in the first five months of 2018 and continue to occur."
Last week, the United States asked the U.N. Security Council committee that monitors sanctions implementation to ban further fuel shipments to Pyongyang in a bid to cut off revenue to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. On Thursday, Russia and China moved to block the U.S., putting a six-month hold on the request.
Pompeo did not give any details on his meetings in Pyongyang. Asked what North Korea needed to do, the secretary said that Kim Jong Un committed to denuclearize and that he understood what that meant.
"What do we need to see?" Pompeo asked. "We need to see Chairman Kim do what he promised the world he would do. It's not very fancy, but it's the truth."
Trump, Pompeo optimistic
The secretary of state said he and President Donald Trump were "upbeat" about the prospects of North Korea fulfilling its promise.
"It is the Trump administration's hope that one day the DPRK could be in our midst here at U.N. not as pariah, but as friend," he said, referring to North Korea by its initialism.
Security Council members said that during his briefing, Pompeo urged enforcement of sanctions and said that a discussion about easing them could begin only once concrete actions had been taken on the ground.
South Korea's Kang said North Korea had repeatedly made clear its commitment to denuclearization and that "we will hold them up to that commitment."
"China is committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula issue; we're committed to peace and stability on the peninsula, [and] we're committed to the promotion of dialogue and negotiations," China's U.N. Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu told reporters. "We will fully implement the resolutions. Everybody is doing so."
"I pleaded to the Security Council that they stay the course, that they maintain the sanctions and keep on sending this strong message to North Korea that the international community cannot accept nuclear weapons," said Japan's envoy, Koro Bessho.