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President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order expanding his authority to target people and institutions that do business with North Korea.
Through the measure, the president aims to cut off the communist dictatorship's funding and deter its nuclear and missile ambitions amid a string of recent tests and provocations.
"North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile development is a grave threat to peace and security in our world and it is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal, rogue regime," Trump said before a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. "Our new executive order will cut off sources of revenue that fund North Korea's efforts to develop the deadliest weapons known to humankind. The order enhances the Treasury Department's authorities to target any individual or entity that conducts significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea."
The isolated nation has tested ballistic missiles and an apparent hydrogen bomb in recent weeks in the face of international economic sanctions and warnings. On Tuesday, Trump told the U.N. General Assembly that the U.S. "will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea" if it is forced to defend itself or its allies.
Last week, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed fresh measures to punish the communist dictatorship economically, with the support of China and Russia. Trump has repeatedly pressed China, North Korea's only major ally, to do more to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Trump on Thursday highlighted that China's central bank has told its banks to strictly implement U.N. sanctions. He thanked President Xi Jinping for what he called a "bold" and "somewhat unexpected" move.
On Tuesday, he also commended Beijing for signing on to two recent sanctions packages enacted by the Security Council. The U.S. sees China's commitment to sanctions as crucial to forcing Pyongyang to end its nuclear and missile programs.
Trump appeared to try to quash speculation that he is targeting China or other North Korean trading partners with the action.
"I want to be clear — the order targets only one country, and that country is North Korea," he said.
Trump said the order identifies industries including textiles, fishing, information technology and manufacturing, which the Treasury Department can target with "strong sanctions." The president added that the order includes "measures designed to disrupt" shipping and trade networks to reduce North Korea's ability to avoid the sanctions.
Earlier, national security advisor H.R. McMaster said Trump would take more action to stop North Korea "short of war." Trump's advisors have repeatedly said they prefer to use diplomatic methods to curb North Korea's aggression.
The president again said that he seeks the "complete denuclearization" of North Korea.
Trump had separate bilateral meetings scheduled with both Moon and Abe on Thursday.