Tillerson calls for tougher sanctions on North Korea

He was speaking at a UN Security Council meeting

Tillerson calls for tougher sanctions on North Korea

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is seen presiding over a UN Security Council meeting | Image: PA images

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called for tougher sanctions on North Korea while speaking at a United Nations Security Council meeting on Friday. 

He said that Washington will push for a tougher global response to North Korea, which will see China come under heavy pressure to rein in its ally.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in New York for the meeting which follows weeks of warnings from the US administration that it will no longer tolerate North Korea's missile launches and nuclear tests.

Earlier today, President Donald Trump warned that there could be conflict between the US and North Korea. 

He said "There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely," before adding that "We'd love to solve things diplomatically, but it's very difficult."

Although the US is calling for tougher sanctions on North Korea, it wants China to take the lead in diplomatic efforts and resolving the crisis by using its leverage on Pyongyang.

Targeted sanctions 

Speaking at the UN Security Council meeting Tillerson said "Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences," before adding "Business as usual is not an option.

"The threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul or Tokyo is real, and it is likely only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the US mainland."

Tillerson said there was "no reason" to think North Korea would change course under the current multilateral sanctions regime, warning that: "The time has come for all of us to put new pressure on North Korea to abandon its dangerous path."

Tillerson then called on all countries to "downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea and impose targeted sanctions on entities and individuals supporting Pyongyang's missile and nuclear program."

Tillerson once again pointed toward China, which accounts for 90% of North Korea's trade, saying it "alone has economic leverage over Pyongyang that is unique" and he suggested that sanctions from Beijing would have a strong impact.