The US and allies are days away from launching a new effort to more publicly expose North Korean violations of sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear and missile programs, two defense officials tell CNN.
The plan to “name and shame” Pyongyang comes as negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program appear to have reached a standstill and President Donald Trump raises the possibility of a second summit with leader Kim Jong Un.
Defense officials say North Korea is regularly employing “deceptive tactics to evade UN sanctions.”
The new effort will make more public US and allied military efforts to enforce UN sanctions against North Korea, particularly the monitoring of ships performing illicit transfers of refined petroleum to North Korean oil tankers in the East China Sea.
The US has deployed aircraft and surface vessels to detect and disrupt these activities, but has not been very public about its actions until now, partly to avoid irritating Pyongyang in the midst of negotiations over its nuclear program.
US allies Japan, Australia and New Zealand are expected to make announcements about their own monitoring and surveillance efforts, also part of the effort to disrupt illicit North Korean smuggling.
Canada, France, South Korea and the United Kingdom are also involved in coordinating these efforts.
Asked Tuesday about the prospect of increased US military activity to enforce the sanctions, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said: “I generally don’t talk about upcoming operations, as you know. But we have seen from Japan and Canada, from New Zealand and Australia, they’re – there’s a lot of nations contributing to this.”
“We’ll do whatever we have to do to support the diplomats in the negotiation, and carry out the UN, the international sanctions,” he added.
On Monday White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that Trump is open to another meeting with Kim. Trump has stressed what he describes as his “very good and warm” relationship with the North Korean leader.
Sanders’ comments came hours after Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said the President has “tried to hold the door open” for Kim to denuclearize, but the US is still waiting for Pyongyang to take those steps.
Trump administration officials have stressed that sanctions on North Korea will remain until Pyongyang denuclearizes.