President Donald Trump’s administration imposed its largest set of sanctions yet on the North Korean regime on Friday, Feb. 23, targeting shipping and trade companies tied to the communist regime.
The goal of the sanctions, imposed by the Treasury Department, is to prevent illegal coal and fuel shipments going to North Korea, and to stop the regime from shipping its goods around the world—goods it uses to fund its nuclear weapons program.
The sanctions are the latest in the Trump administration’s campaign of maximum pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
“As President Trump has said, there is a brighter path available for North Korea if it chooses denuclearization,” White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Feb. 25.
However, if the sanctions don’t have their desired effect in pushing North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program, President Donald Trump has said the United States is ready to move to “phase two.”
“If the sanctions don’t work we’ll have to go phase two, and phase two may be a very rough thing,” Trump said on Feb. 23.
“Hopefully the sanctions will work. We have tremendous support all around the world for what we’re doing. It really is a rogue nation. If we can make a deal it will be a great thing, and if we can’t, something will have to happen,” Trump said.
North Korea reiterated its threat to use nuclear weapons against the United States in response to Trump’s comments.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Feb. 25, following a meeting with a North Korean delegation at the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, that the North Korean regime is willing to meet with the United States.
North Korean state media, however, reported on Feb. 25 “We will never have face-to-face talks with them even after 100 years or 200 years. This is neither an empty talk nor any threat.”
The White House, meanwhile, said that it is open to a dialogue with North Korea if the result is for the North to abandon its nuclear weapons.
North Korea has threatened to strike the United States, as well as allies South Korea and Japan, multiple times with nuclear weapons in recent months.
In late November, the regime conducted a controversial Intercontinental Ballistic Missile test, which, according to Defense Secretary Gen. Jim Mattis, puts anywhere in the world within its range.