The Trump administration pushed for a complete oil embargo and an asset freeze for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after the regime conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3.
But on Monday, the UN Security Council adopted a watered-down version of the US proposals with caps on North Korea's oil imports and a ban on textile exports.
"We think it's just another very small step -- not a big deal," Trump told reporters at the start of talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
|US President Donald Trump. (AP-Yonhap)|
"(Secretary of State) Rex (Tillerson) and I were just discussing -- not big. I don't know if it has any impact, but certainly it was nice to get a 15 to nothing vote," he said, referring to the council's unanimous approval. "But those sanctions are nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen."
Trump also noted that Malaysia has stopped doing business with North Korea, something the administration finds to be "very important."
Both the White House and State Department interpreted the remarks as a call for more action.
"I think he actually said this is a small step and part of the process," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a press briefing, stressing the ultimate goal remains a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
"We're going to continue taking those small steps, but at the same time, we know that those very parties that voted to do this all have to do more. The president has called on them to do more, and we continue to hope that they will," she said.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert weighed in.
"We are not at the ceiling when it comes to sanctions against the DPRK. We're sort of at the floor at this point," she said at a separate press briefing, using the acronym of North Korea's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "There's a lot more that we can do."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, meanwhile, threatened to impose additional sanctions on China if it fails to implement the new UN sanctions.
At a conference in New York earlier in the day, he said Washington could prevent China from accessing the US and international dollar system. (Yonhap)