U.S., Japan, South Korea to Put 'Maximum Pressure' on North Korea

KCNA/via ReutersBallistic rocket is seen launching during a drill by the Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang, North Korea, on July 21, 2016.

The United States, Japan, and South Korea have agreed to exert "maximum pressure" on North Korea in the hopes of crippling the hermit kingdom that will lead to the "complete and irreversible" denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The call came after Pyongyang demonstrated last week that it could launch an ICBM.

At the first trilateral summit on North Korea at the sidelines of the recent G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, the three nations agreed to impose sanctions on Pyongyang to curb its weapons program. They, however, did not outline how they will go about the plan, especially with the non-cooperation of China.

It is still unclear whether China will join in the effort after Washington tried to pressure Beijing to intervene. The U.S. has recently imposed sanctions on Chinese firms suspected of channeling funds for North Korea's development of nuclear weapons, and its effect is yet to be felt.

The leaders of the three countries tried to enlist Beijing's support by urging it to tighten sanctions on Pyongyang on top of the coal import ban it imposed. China has been reluctant to step up a significant amount of economic pressure on North Korea, being its major trading partner and oil supplier.

President Donald Trump aired his frustration on Beijing by tweeting: "Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 percent in the first quarter. So much for China working with us -- but we had to give it a try!" The U.S. has ruled out military action due to the great risks involved.

If China will be convinced to join the efforts, it can fully enforce U.N. embargo against North Korea, impose an oil embargo and sanction Chinese banks and companies doing business with the country. Trump said unless China exerts its pressure on North Korea, the U.S. will have to take unilateral action.