(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks from NSC communications coordinator John Kirby in last 7 paras)
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 (Yonhap) -- The United States and its allies will use all means possible to limit North Korea from further advancing its weapons programs, White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a released statement Friday.
The statement came one day after the U.S., South Korea and Japan imposed unilateral sanctions on North Korean officials and entities for supporting the North's illegal weapons development programs.
"This synchronized action demonstrates the increased strength of the trilateral relationship between the United States, Japan, and the ROK," Watson said in her statement, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.
The U.S. designated three senior members of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party on Thursday. Seoul imposed sanctions on eight North Korean individuals and seven entities, while Tokyo followed suit by slapping sanctions on three North Korean institutions and one individual.
Watson noted that United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions on North Korea have successfully slowed the development of North Korea's unlawful weapons programs, but that Pyongyang is now turning to "increasingly desperate ways to generate revenue, like virtual currency heists and other cyberthefts."
"As the DPRK adjusts its tactics in the face of international pressure, we will continue to use all available tools to further limit the growth of these destabilizing weapons programs," she said.
DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
North Korea fired 63 ballistic missiles this year, an annual record that far exceeds the previous record of 25.
The U.S. had sought to impose fresh UNSC sanctions on North Korea, but all 10 UNSC meetings held on North Korea this year had ended with naught due to opposition from China and Russia, both veto power-wielding permanent members of the Security Council and friendly neighbors of Pyongyang.
"We will continue to coordinate closely with our allies and partners to address the threats posed by the DPRK and to advance our shared objective of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," said Watson.
The NSC spokesperson also reaffirmed U.S. commitment to engaging with North Korea.
"As we have made clear, the door has not closed on diplomacy, but Pyongyang must cease its destabilizing actions and engage diplomatically," she said.
"The DPRK's decision to ignore our outreach is not in its best interest, nor in the interest of the people of the DPRK who continue to suffer as a result of decisions made by the regime."
John Kirby, NSC coordinator for strategic communications, insisted the individual sanctions imposed by the three countries will help keep "pressure" on North Korea.
"We have a very robust set of sanctions in place on North Korea to check their illegal weapons program," he said in a virtual press briefing. "So the sanctions today that we were very proud to be able to announce and to do so trilaterally will help continue to put that pressure on."
Kirby still highlighted the importance of joint international efforts to limit North Korea's weapons development, urging Beijing and Moscow to fully implement UNSC sanctions and hold North Korea accountable for its recent provocations.
"We want to see all the leaders of the U.N. Security Council rigorously enforce the sanctions against the DPRK," he said when asked if China and Russia should be held accountable for allowing North Korea's continued bad behavior by blocking UNSC actions.
Kirby also called on China to use its influence over North Korea to limit the country's nuclear and weapons development programs.
"Beijing, we know, has influence over Pyongyang as a trading partner, as their northern neighbor," he said.
"They have influence and we continue to want them to see them use that influence for the right effect on Pyongyang because it's not in anybody's interest, certainly can't be in China's interest to have a regime in the North that continues to advance ballistic missile capabilities, continues to advance nuclear technology and continues to threaten its neighbors," he added.