North Korea has begun to suffer fuel shortages as a result of international sanctions passed this month, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
"We have some indications that there are beginning to appear evidence of fuel shortages," Tillerson told reporters during a Wednesday evening press briefing.
Trump's team led a push to crimp North Korea's access to oil as part of a sanctions package that passed through the United Nations Security Council on September 11. The oil sanctions fell short of the United States original call for a full oil embargo due to Russian and Chinese opposition. A subsequent North Korean missile test renewed concern that the sanctions would not deter the regime, but Tillerson expressed optimism.
"We knew that these sanctions are going to take some time to be felt because we knew that the North Koreans, based on information that the Chinese had shared with us and others had shared with us, had basically stockpiled a lot of inventory early in the year when they saw the administration coming in, in anticipation of things perhaps changing," Tillerson said.
The UN Security Council mandated a reduction in oil sales to North Korea in response to the detonation of a hydrogen bomb, a test detonation that followed on the heels of previous UN sanctions. North Korea responded by launching a ballistic missile over Japan, the second such provocation in less than a month.
"North Korea has already demonstrated its disregard of the resolution by launching a missile," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the UN General Assembly in a speech earlier Thursday. "The resolution is nothing more than the beginning. We must prevent goods, funds, people, and technology necessary for nuclear and missile development from heading to North Korea."
Tillerson said he hopes the sanctions will induce North Korea to begin talks that would lead to a dismantling of the regime's nuclear program.
"I think what we're seeing is a combined effect of these inventories are now being exhausted and the supply coming in is being reduced," he said. "But there are indications that there are shortages of fuel in particular and I think we will see latent evidence of the impact of the other sanctions that have been put in place."