U.S. focusing on cutting off N. Korea's income from coal trade, labor exports: Russel
WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 (Yonhap) -- The United States is working hard with South Korea and Japan to cut off sources of income for North Korea, including coal trade and labor exports, the top State Department official in charge of Asian affairs said Tuesday.
Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, made the remark in a written statement submitted to a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, saying the three countries are cooperating closely to curb Pyongyang's nuclear programs.
"We're focusing our efforts on cutting off sources of revenue for the regime's unlawful nuclear and ballistic weapons programs, including revenue generated through the coal trade and overseas by North Korean workers," Russel said in the statement.
"Our three countries will continue to increase the costs on North Korea and target its revenue and reputation until it makes a strategic decision to return to serious talks on denuclearization and complies with its international obligations and commitments," he said.
Russel said that the U.S. has long expressed its willingness to hold "credible and authentic talks aimed at returning to the six-party talks on ending the North's nuclear programs, but Pyongyang's "litany of provocations demonstrates its rejection" of dialogue.
Exports of coal and other mineral resources are an important source of hard currency that accounts for nearly half of the North's total exports. The latest U.N. Security Council resolution bans such mineral exports unless they are intended for livelihood purposes.
Labor exports have also increasingly become a key source of income for Pyongyang.
About 50,000 North Koreans are believed to be toiling overseas, mainly in the mining, logging, textile and construction industries. Such workers earn on average $120-150 per month while employers pay significantly higher amounts to the North's government.