July 31, 2018 / 4:47 PM / 9 months ago

Pompeo to urge southeast Asia bloc to keep up N.Korea sanctions pressure

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will press southeast Asian nations in Singapore this week to maintain sanctions against North Korea, a U.S. official said on Tuesday, amid concerns that fuel is being sold illegally to Pyongyang despite U.N. sanctions.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives for a joint news conference by President Donald Trump and Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 30, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The senior State Department official, speaking to reporters to preview a trip by Pompeo to Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia this week, declined to comment when asked whether Pompeo would meet North Korean officials while in Singapore for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this weekend.

The official, however, said that North Korea will participate in a 27-nation regional ASEAN forum on Saturday that Pompeo will also attend.

“They will be in the room and there will certainly be discussions about denuclearization of North Korea as there traditionally are at these gatherings,” the official told reporters on a conference call to preview Pompeo’s trip.

“I don’t have any announcement today but it’s natural to get a lot of business done ... but we are not there for any announcements,” the official said.

The official added: “We remain concerned about the scale of North Korea’s illicit procurement, in particular of refined petroleum products via U.N.-prohibited ship-to-ship transfers. We plan to use these meetings to remind all countries of their obligations and adherence of U.N. Security Council Resolutions.”

Under the restrictions, Pyongyang is limited to importing 4 million barrels of crude and 500,000 barrels of products a year.

Pompeo has led talks with Pyongyang to denuclearize following a June summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The official declined to comment on U.S. spy satellite material that has detected renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the United States.

“I don’t have any comment on matters of intelligence,” the official told reporters.

A senior U.S. official told Reuters on Monday one photo showed a truck and covered trailer similar to those the North has used to move its ICBMs. Since the trailer was covered, it was not possible to know what, if anything, it was carrying.

Photos and infrared imaging, however, indicate vehicles moving in and out of the facility at Sanumdong, but do not show how advanced any missile construction might be.

The evidence obtained this month is the latest to suggest ongoing activity in North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities. Trump declared soon after the summit that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by James Dalgleish

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