President Donald Trump announced new sanctions on North Korea on Thursday at the United Nations, measures intended to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
The new executive order will target companies that do business with North Korea, which has conducted a series of missile and nuclear tests this summer, alarming world powers by demonstrating it might have developed long range, nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the United States mainland.
“Today I‘m announcing a new executive order, just signed, that significantly expands our authority to target individual companies, financial institutions, that finance and facilitate trade with North Korea,” Trump said.
“Our new executive order will cut off sources of revenue that fund North Korea’s efforts to develop the deadliest weapons known to humankind.”
Trump made the remarks before meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean president Moon Jae-in.
The new U.S. sanctions are in addition to recently passed United Nations economic sanctions.
The president also said China would be cracking down on banks that do business with the North, praising the country for its cooperation.
“Our new order will give the Treasury Department the discretion to sanction any foreign bank that knowingly conducts or facilitates significant transactions tied to trade with North Korea. And again, I want to just say, and thank President Xi of China for the very bold move he made today. That was a somewhat unexpected move and we appreciate it,” Trump said.
Trump’s announcement comes just two days after he vowed the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea should tensions spiral into all out war.
Carrying out a first strike against North Korea’s nuclear facilities would carry immense risks, former Ambassador Joseph DeTrani, who helped lead negotiations with the regime, told The Cipher Brief.
“If the U.S. were to conduct a ‘preventive’ attack against a base or facility to deny the North the ability to attack, then I think they would retaliate in a more ferocious way, using conventional weapons to attack Seoul, at a minimum,” DeTrani said.
While the long and intermediate range ballistic missiles North Korea has in its arsenal remain relatively untested, the artillery stationed on the North’s border with the South are far more certain to inflict massive casualties on a civilian population.
And scenarios for what happens after the collapse of the North’s government also harbor further dangers, former acting CIA director Mike Morell said this summer at The Cipher Brief’s Annual Threat Conference.
“What I fear the most is the collapse scenario in the North with civil war and nobody quite knowing where the nuclear weapons are and how we account for them,” said Morell, who advocated for a strategy that aims to deter the North from ever using weapons of mass destruction.
“We need to get [North Korea] to believe exactly what the Soviet Union believed — if they launched a strike it would be the end of the Soviet Union,” he added.
Wilson Dizard is a national security editor at The Cipher Brief. Follow him on Twitter @willdizard.