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Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
Countries in Southeast Asia are beginning to take action and apply pressure on North Korea in line with American policy requests, according to the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand on Wednesday.
Ambassador Glyn Davies made the comments at a briefing from U.S. Ambassadors to ASEAN countries at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, when asked if ASEAN states were seeking to downgrade diplomatic and economic ties with the DPRK.
“I can speak for the relationship with Thailand, we have already had a number of conversations with Senior Thai authorities,” Davies said. “I had a lengthy exchange with Foreign Minister Don just a couple of weeks ago about this.”
He added that requests are being made to restrict North Korea’s ability to use banking systems, transport networks, and diplomatic activities to fund its illicit programs.
“We are getting a very good hearing from the South East Asians and actions beginning to be taken,” he added.
The U.S. has, in recent weeks, embarked on what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called a “pressure campaign” against North Korea.
Speaking at an extended debate at the UN Security Council (UNSC) in late April, Tillerson called on member states to move “before North Korea does” and urged them to take three key actions.
The first is to fully implement UNSC resolutions, the second is to suspend or downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea, and the third is to increase the economic isolation of the country.
The hope, the U.S. argues, is that the campaign will force North Korea to reconsider its continued development of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, restrict revenue used in those programs, and to force a return to negotiations on denuclearization.
“The case we have made, or have tried to make – and I think this is all across the region and indeed around the world – is that we face a uniquely threatening North Korea today,” Davies said.
“With Bangkok we have said: we need your help. We need you to try to find ways to restrict the ways in which North Korea can operate in Thailand and in these various countries,” he added.
Davies also referenced the death of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia in February.
“We saw what North Korea did with that relative freedom, they assassinated the half brother of Kim Jong Un in Kuala Lumpur airport using a prohibited chemical weapon,” he said.
“That was a strong signal to Southeast Asia about the true nature of the North Korean regime so this is the nature of the message that we are delivering to our ASEAN partners.”
Davies, a former Special Representative of the U.S. Secretary of State for North Korea Policy in the Obama administration, also said that the only resolution to the North Korea nuclear issue is a diplomatic one.
“What we are messaging to our partners and allies in Thailand is that we have now reached a point when all nations, who have an interest in peace and stability in East Asia must now play a role if this is to turn out well,” he said.
“The only solution to the North Korean nuclear problem is a peaceful diplomatic solution and this is a way to clarify the choices for the North Korean regime.”
U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sun Kim, as well as Ambassadors to Indonesia and Cambodia, were also on the panel.
Edited by Oliver Hotham