US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's call for pressure comes after a UN report warned the North is circumventing sanctions imposed over its nuclear programme. Meanwhile, Pyongyang says US was acting with "alarming" impatience.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Singapore August 4, 2018.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Singapore August 4, 2018. (Reuters)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Saturday for pressure to be maintained on North Korea as a UN report warned Pyongyang is circumventing tough sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons programme.

In Singapore ahead of a major security forum, Pompeo said he had urged other countries to strictly enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea, which reports suggest has made slow progress towards disarmament following a landmark June summit.

The US's top diplomat said he had "emphasised the importance of maintaining diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearisation that DPRK has agreed to," using the initials of the North's official name.

"I must say from my meetings here, the world is united in seeing this achieved," Pompeo told a press conference.

"We're determined to do it, Chairman Kim is committed to doing it. I'm optimistic that we will get this done."

North Korea's foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, reacted immediately in the same ASEAN conference, saying the US was acting with "alarming" impatience on the issue of denuclearisation, including "raising its voice louder for maintaining the sanctions against" the North.

Those moves, Ri told fellow ministers, could make an agreement with the Trump administration, including the North's commitment to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, "face difficulties."

TRT World's Ben Tornquist has more.

UN report on North Korea

Pompeo's comments came as a UN report said on Friday that North Korea has resorted to a "massive increase" of illegal ship-to-ship transfers of oil products at sea to evade sanctions.

The 62-page report sent to the Security Council also listed violations of a ban on North Korean exports including coal, iron and seafood that generate millions of dollars in revenue for the reclusive regime.

At the summit with President Donald Trump in June, the North's leader Kim Jong-un signed up to a vague commitment to "denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula" — a far cry from long-standing US demands for complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament.

While there have been small signs of progress since the summit, news reports indicate Pyongyang is continuing to build rockets and there have been concerns that some member states are relaxing the enforcement of sanctions on the North.

Sanctions warning

Pompeo said the US was "heartened" by Pyongyang's recent return of the remains of dozens of American soldiers kil led during the Korean War, but warned that Washington would take the infringement of sanctions by other countries "very seriously".

"We have seen reports that Russia is allowing for joint ventures with North Korean firms and granting new work permits to North Korean guest workers," Pompeo said.

"If these reports are proven accurate and we have every reason to believe that they are, that would be in violation" of UN sanctions, he added.

TRT World's Frank Ucciardo is in New York, and explains how Russia has been violating the sanctions against North Korea.

Pyongyang urged to keep its promise 

Meanwhile, Asia's top diplomats pressed North Korea to turn a pledge to completely dismantle its nuclear arsenal into reality amid concerns that it's proceeding with its programmes.

ASEAN foreign ministers, along with counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea, urged the US and North Korea "as well as concerned parties to continue working towards the realisation of lasting peace and stability on a denuclearised Korean Peninsula," according to a draft communique they were to issue after their meetings on Saturday, which was seen by The Associated Press news agency.

In the communique, they would "note" — often a diplomatic subtlety for a reminder — the "stated commitment" of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's formal name, "to complete denuclearisation and its pledge to refrain from further nuclear and missile tests during this period."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies