NEW YORK - Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono called Thursday on countries to cut diplomatic ties with North Korea as part of pressure to end the regime's nuclear and missile drive.
Hours after the United States announced its toughest economic sanctions yet on North Korea, Kono said that more than 160 countries had diplomatic relations with Kim Jong-Un's regime.
"We have to urge these countries to cut their diplomatic and economic relationships with North Korea," Kono said in a speech at Columbia University on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Echoing the UN address of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Kono said: "It is not the time for dialogue for the sake of dialogue. Now is the time for the international community as a whole to maximize the pressure on North Korea to take concrete actions toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."
Kono estimated that North Korea would lose 90 percent of its export revenue if all nations implemented existing UN Security Council resolutions.
China remains the main economic lifeline for North Korea. Beijing fears the impact if the regime collapses, including an exodus of refugees.
The US-educated Kono, who took up his position a month ago, delivered his speech in fluent English in what he described as a broad policy speech.
Kono voiced hope for smoother relations with China, which has a range of disputes with Japan, including over territory and wartime history.
"We are the second and third largest economies in the world. Hence, we have a great responsiblity for the peace and prosperity of the region," he said.
"Therefore, we should not confront each other. We should not allow tension to dominate the entirety of Asia," he said.
Kono is the son of Yohei Kono, a prominent dove in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who is best known for issuing Japan's landmark 1993 apology for sexual enslavement during World War II.
The elder Kono recently raised eyebrows when he appeared to criticize his son's government, saying there should be more cooperation with China over North Korea.
© Agence France-Presse