The administration of President Barack Obama is asking other nations to cut the employment of North Korean workers as a way to reduce Pyongyang's access to foreign currency, a U.S. official said on Thursday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, spoke a day after the United States sanctioned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the first time, citing "notorious abuses of human rights" in a move that infuriated the nuclear-armed country.
The effort aims to increase economic pressure on the North, which angered the United States this year by conducting its fourth nuclear test and by carrying out a rocket launch that Washington said used banned ballistic missile technology.
U.S. efforts to revive talks with North Korea on its nuclear program, seen as a threat to U.S. allies Japan and South Korea, have failed to gain traction, prompting U.S. officials to look at additional sanctions to influence its behavior.
The U.S. official declined to name the countries approached about reducing their use of North Korean labor, though he said they did not yet include China and Russia, believed to be among the prime destinations for North Korean workers. It was not clear when the request was made.
The United States said in April it was working to cut off revenue streams to North Korea by targeting remittances from its overseas workers.
China and Russia generally oppose sanctions that do not have U.N. Security Council backing and Beijing especially fears steps that could destabilize its impoverished neighbor.