• Kyodo

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Monday that the United States is exerting all its political influence in a bid to gain support from all U.N. Security Council members to adopt “the strongest possible resolution” to heighten pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear arms and missile programs.

“With regard to Russia or any other country, we will exert all the political influence that we can on behalf of the strongest possible resolution,” Power told reporters after talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.

Her remarks were made at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula as the U.N. Security Council is working on the adoption of a new resolution to punish North Korea for its fifth nuclear test, conducted last month in the face of global opposition.

She said her team is “working around the clock to try to shore up support from all council members.”

Yun told reporters his discussion with Power covered unilateral punitive measures on Pyongyang.

“South Korea is considering sanctions that are much tougher than those taken in March,” he said, referring to the measures taken to punish North Korea for its fourth nuclear test and the launch of a long-range rocket at the beginning of the year.

North Korea has ramped up its nuclear activities, especially over the past year, with two nuclear tests in contravention of five U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions. It has also conducted more than 20 banned ballistic missile launches.

The most recent nuclear test, carried out on Sept. 9, prompted the council to agree to impose a new sanctions resolution whose drafting is being led by the United States and China, Pyongyang’s closest ally.

Other key members of the Security Council are being consulted on matters such as ways to close loopholes in past resolutions.

Power arrived in South Korea on Saturday for a four-day visit for talks on coordinating policy toward North Korea. She visited Japan before arriving in Seoul.

Her itinerary included a tour to the truce village of Panmunjeom inside the Demilitarized Zone, which separates North and South Korea, on Sunday.

She also visited the Hanawon center, a resettlement support facility for North Korean defectors, which is located south of Seoul.

Upon arriving in South Korea on Saturday, the ambassador said she wanted to directly hear the plight of those that have fled from North Korea.

China meanwhile said Monday it has sent a congratulatory message to North Korea for the 71st anniversary of the foundation of its ruling party, at a time when their diplomatic relations remain tense and there are signs of increased activity at the reclusive regime’s key nuclear test site.

“China and (North) Korea are friendly neighbors. The two parties and the two countries have for a long time maintained the tradition of friendly exchanges,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing. “China has already expressed congratulations to the (North) Korean side.”

His remarks, in response to a question on whether China sent a congratulatory message to North Korea for this year’s anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, comes as the international community remains alert over further potential provocative acts from Pyongyang, such as another nuclear test or the launch of a ballistic missile.

North Korea conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 9, which coincided with the 68th anniversary of the country’s founding.

South Korean officials have warned that North Korea is preparing for another nuclear test. Citing satellite images, the U.S.-Korea Institute of Johns Hopkins University also said recently on its 38 North website that an increase in activity has been seen at North Korea’s major satellite launch and nuclear sites.

On the possibility of North Korea carrying out another nuclear test, the Chinese spokesman said Beijing has noted relevant reports and urged “all parties concerned not to take any action to escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

Countries including Japan, South Korea and the United States have stepped up vigilance for possible security threats from North Korea as Sunday also marked the 10th anniversary of its first nuclear test.

However, unlike last year, when there was a massive military parade in the heart of Pyongyang, there were no indications or reports that North Korea has held a major event for this year’s party anniversary.

For the parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the party’s foundation, China sent Liu Yunshan, its Communist Party’s fifth-ranked leader. Together with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, he watched the spectacle of about three hours from a balcony overlooking Kim Il Sung Square.

Liu was China’s most senior official to have visited North Korea since Kim inherited power following the death of his father in December 2011. The visit was seen as a telltale sign of thawing relations between Beijing and Pyongyang at that time.

However, that proved to be wrong after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January, which led Pyongyang to face additional U.N. sanctions with the support of China, its sole diplomatic ally and most important economic lifeline.

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