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Tillerson in Thailand to press junta on North Korea links

Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shakes hands with Thailand’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok on Tuesday.

AFP-JijiBANGKOK (AFP-Jiji) — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson landed in Bangkok on Tuesday with a plea to the kingdom to curb business ties with North Korea, as Washington rounds up allies for its bid to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

Tillerson is the highest level American diplomat to visit Thailand since a 2014 coup strained ties between the longtime friends and saw China cosy up to Bangkok with massive military sales and infrastructure deals.

Thailand is one of a raft of Southeast Asian countries that hosts a North Korean embassy and enjoys valuable bilateral trade with the reclusive regime.

In 2014 the two countries shared trade worth $126 million, according to Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, nearly a three-fold increase since 2009.

America’s top diplomat will press Thailand to crack down on North Korean firms that open fronts in Bangkok and use the capital as a trading hub, said acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Susan Thornton.

He will also lean on the kingdom to tighten visa requirements for North Koreans entering Thailand and squeeze its diplomatic mission, Thornton added.

Tillerson’s one-day visit follows a regional forum in Manila, where the former ExxonMobil CEO hailed a tough new U.N. sanctions regime on North Korea over its growing nuclear arsenal.

They were levied — with the agreement of North Korean lifeline China — in response to the launch of two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month.

The U.S. envoy will also urge Thailand to take in more North Korean refugees, said Thornton.

The kingdom has long been a transit route for defectors who make the arduous journey through China, then into Laos or Cambodia and Thailand, where they seek sanctuary at the South Korean Embassy.

Thailand does not grant official status to refugees.Speech

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