WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday said he believes the latest U.N. sanctions on North Korea are too weak, and also voiced skepticism of the Obama administration’s nuclear disarmament deal with Iran.
“We had hoped for a much stronger resolution,” Tillerson said of the latest U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea, which the United States supported in the face of Chinese opposition to stronger sanctions. China holds veto power as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
The Trump administration had sought a full U.N. embargo on oil exports to North Korea, among other harsh measures, but China made clear it disagreed.
Tillerson said the provision was aimed exclusively at China because it supplies neighboring North Korea with most of its oil, as well as most of its trade.
To avoid a Chinese veto, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley agreed to soften the resolution to reduce oil exports to Pyongyang but not cut them off completely.
Tillerson said he hoped Beijing would decide “on their own to take it up upon themselves to use that very powerful tool of oil supply to persuade North Korea to reconsider” its development of nuclear weapons and its approach to negotiations.
“That is a very powerful tool that has been used in the past, and we hope that China will not reject that,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson’s criticism of President Obama’s controversial Iran deal comes a month before a congressional deadline for the White House to certify Tehran’s compliance.
The administration separately extended waivers on economic sanctions against Iran, in keeping with another deadline. That means key sanctions that were lifted in exchange for Iran’s agreement to give up its nuclear program remain suspended.
The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency claims Iran has met its obligations so far under the 2015 accord. But the White House has hinted strongly that President Donald Trump won’t certify to Congress next month that Iran is in compliance.