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Isolation and Pressure: Washington's Two-Pronged Strategy on North Korea

© REUTERS / Kim Hong-JiPeople watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that landed close to Japan, in Seoul, South Korea, November 29, 2017
People watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that landed close to Japan, in Seoul, South Korea, November 29, 2017 - Sputnik International
Amid the ongoing standoff with North Korea over its nuclear and missile ambitions, the United States is trying to implement a non-military strategy to resolve the crisis.

The key component of US President Donald Trump’s approach to North Korea is diplomatic isolation, in addition to the already existing economic pressure over the reclusive Asian nation. The White House expects the initiative can help achieve two goals.

It is aimed at punishing the North Korean leadership for the development of a nuclear and missile arsenal. US officials believe that international isolation would prompt the North Korean government to negotiate.

"We do know they care a lot about their international reputation," Mark Tokola, a former No. 2 at the US Embassy in South Korea, told the Associated Press.

In November, Pyongyang tested the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The test reportedly failed but an operational Hwasong-15 is believed to have a range of over 13,000 kilometers and could strike anywhere in the US. Pyongyang commented on the launch, stating that it has completed its "nuclear force" with the development of the Hwasong-15 ICBM.

"Today, we call on all nations to cut off all ties with North Korea. In addition to fully implementing all UN sanctions all countries should severe diplomatic relations with North Korea and limit military, scientific, technical or commercial cooperation," US Envoy to the UN Nikki Haley said after the launch.

READ MORE: North Korea Slams US 'Nuclear Blackmail' During Talks With UN

Despite the fact that the Trump administration has made some progress in exercising diplomatic pressure over the North, Pyongyang is still unlikely to be completely isolated in the international arena.

U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon, right, and F-35A Lightning IIs assigned to the 34th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron Hill Air Force Base, Utah, taxi toward the end of the runway during the exercise VIGILANT ACE 18 at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea - Sputnik International
Doubtless Victory: US Planned War With N Korea in 1994 - Declassified Documents
There are just a few examples. In November, China sent a high-level special envoy to North Korea for talks. North Korea recently received a visit by a Russian parliamentary delegation. Both Moscow and Beijing have called for restraint over the North Korean crisis, insisting that it could only be resolved diplomatically. Any attempt to exert diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang is unlikely to be successful without the involvement of Russia and China.

Earlier this week, the North hosted a visit by UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, who became the first UN top representative to visit the country since 2010. Feltman spent five days in North Korea and had talks with the country’s foreign minister.

North Korea also maintains a friendly relationship with Cuba, another nation  under US sanctions for years. In late November, the top North Korean  diplomat Ri Yong-Ho visited Havana and met Cuban President Raul Castro.

The second part of Trump’s policy on the North Korean crisis presumes "maximum pressure and engagement." According to Suzanne DiMaggio at the New America think tank, Washington is not completely focused  on pressure while "this is probably as good a time as any to try to pivot to engagement."

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