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Two US Air Force B-1B strategic bombers from Andersen AFB, Guam, conducted training with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-2s, shown above, and a low-level flight with fighter aircraft from the Republic of Korea and the United States on Sept. 12, 2016, in response to North Korea's fifth nuclear test. US Forces Korea photo.

​The US government is applying a full-court press to find ways to cause North Korea to freeze, rollback, and eventually end its nuclear program, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said Wednesday. Tightening sanctions should eventually give North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a choice: lose his nuclear weapons program or lose his country, Russel told reporters in Washington, D.C. “We’re under no illusion that this will be easy,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say that perhaps the last thing on earth that North Korea’s leader wants to do is to relinquish his nuclear material or his nuclear weapons program. Therefore, the strategy is built around the principle that we will take away the alternatives, eliminate his other options, and make a rollback and relinquishing of that program the last thing on earth that he can do if the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] DPRK is going to continue.”

Russel said an increasing overlap between the policy interests of the United States, Russia, China, the Republic of Korea, and Japan make a tightening of existing United Nations sanctions and the implementation of a new one in response to recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests possible. While negotiations are ongoing, China reportedly pushed back earlier this week on the effort to close a loophole that allows North Korea to export coal to China, according to Reuters. But Russel called the “unprecedented” unity and synchronization of policies, specifically between the United States, South Korea, and Japan, “a signal achievement” of the Obama Administration. “That unity is an indispensable precondition for pursuing a pressure campaign or a viable policy with any hope of bringing North Korea to the negotiating table,” he said. The increase of trilateral cooperation, including through joint operations and exercises, between the countries is a “major force multiplier,” Russel said.