WASHINGTON/SEOULUS    -   President Donald Trump rolled out sanctions against North Korea-linked shipping assets Friday, hailing the package as the “heaviest sanctions ever” levied on the Pyongyang regime.Trump used a speech to conservatives just outside Washington to step up his campaign of “maximum pressure” designed to force North Korea to roll back its weapons programs.

“We imposed today the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before,” Trump claimed at the end of a 90 minute campaign-style address.In light of past US embargoes, that is likely an overstatement, but Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin confirmed the sanctions covered “virtually all the ships” North Korea is “using at this moment in time.”Trump had been expected to provide details of measures that target “56 vessels, shipping companies, and trade businesses,” but skipped that part of his prepared remarks. “I do want to say because people have asked, North Korea,” he said instead. “Frankly hopefully something positive can happen.”Trump’s administration is locked in a nuclear standoff with North Korea, which is trying to develop missiles that could deliver a nuke to major cities in the United States.

The latest sanctions are designed to put the squeeze on North Korea’s already precarious economy and fuel supply. Mnuchin said there were signs that effort was starting to have an impact, but did not elaborate. The North Korean military and broader economy depend heavily on imports of coal and oil from China and Russia.China has steadfastly rebuffed Washington’s calls for a full oil embargo - fearing the chaotic collapse of the Pyongyang regime - but has agreed to caps agreed at the United Nations.

The timing of the new measures coincides with the arrival in South Korea of Trump’s daughter Ivanka.She is attending the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, which have taken place against the backdrop of the crisis.The 36-year-old businesswoman and model-turned-policy-advisor has been tasked with reaffirming US ties with South Korea, which have been strained over how to deal with the North. She was hosted in Seoul by President Moon Jae-in, who has long advocated talks rather than confrontation with North Korea.

Trump pushes plan to arm teachers, suggests deputy a ‘coward’ US President Donald Trump, defending his controversial proposal to arm some of America’s teachers, said Friday that a teacher with a gun would have “shot the hell” out of the teenager who went on a shooting rampage last week at a Florida high school.Trump, in a speech to a conservative gathering near Washington, also called for stronger background checks for gun buyers and criticized an armed deputy who failed to intervene during the shooting at the Parkland, Florida, school which left 17 people dead.Florida Governor Rick Scott announced plans meanwhile to station a police officer at every public school in the southern state and that the age for gun buyers would be raised from 18 to 21. Trump, speaking to a receptive crowd of thousands of fellow Republicans at the Conservative Political Action Conference, said “well-trained” teachers could help stop school shootings.

Meanwhile, South Korean lawmakers protested Friday over a visit by a top North Korean general for the Pyeongchang Olympics, labelling him a war criminal over the 2010 sinking of a warship and calling for his execution.Kim Yong Chol will head an eight-member delegation to arrive on Sunday for the Games’ closing ceremony - which will also be attended by US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, creating protocol headaches for Seoul officials. Kim is widely blamed for a spate of attacks against the South including the torpedoing nearly eight years ago of the Seoul’s Cheonan corvette, with the loss of 46 lives.Some 70 lawmakers of the conservative Liberty Korea Party staged a protest outside the presidential Blue House, urging President Moon Jae-in to scrap the visit.“Kim Yong Chol is a diabolical war criminal who attacked the South... He deserves death by hanging in the street,” the party’s parliamentary floor leader Kim Sung-tae said in a statement.“Even if the heavens split in two, we cannot allow such a heinous criminal - who must be sliced to death - to be invited to the Olympics closing ceremony,”

he said.Unification ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun said the South Korean government was aware of widespread misgivings about Kim Yong Chol’s visit to the South, but accepted it as the “chances for improving inter-Korean ties and a peace settlement might be improved”.The Pyeongchang Olympics have seen a charm offensive by the North, which sent leader Kim Jong Un’s sister to the opening ceremony as it seeks to loosen sanctions against it and weaken the alliance between Seoul and Washington.US Vice President Mike Pence was also present for the start of the Games, and sat only a few seats away from Kim Yo Jong, without exchanging words with her - having earlier visited a memorial to the Cheonan and condemned the North for abusing human rights.Officials from both Seoul and Washington say there is little or no prospect of a meeting between Ivanka Trump - a businesswoman and former model turned key adviser to her father - and the North Korean representatives.But Seoul authorities are still struggling over how to manage their presence at the same event.“At the closing ceremony their lines of movement will not cross,” a senior official of Seoul’s presidential Blue House told Yonhap news agency.

“Authorities are in agony over protocol and the seating plan at the closing ceremony.”Ivanka Trump arrived at Incheon airport on a commercial flight from the US on Friday, and said she was “very excited” to attend the Olympics “and to reaffirm our strong and enduring commitment with people of the Republic of Korea”.She was accompanied by White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, with at least one Korea specialist also reportedly among the group, and was to have dinner with Moon at the Blue House.Officials said the meal would be Korean food including bibimbap, prepared according to kosher principles and served to a background of traditional Korean music.Seoul blames the North for the 2010 sinking of the Cheonan - widely believed in the South to have been ordered by Kim Yong Chol - although Pyongyang denies responsibility.At the time he was head of the North’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is responsible for espionage and sabotage activities against the South.Kim has also been linked to the shelling of the South’s Yeonpyeong island the same year, which killed four people.Unification ministry spokesman Baek said the sinking of the Cheonan was “certainly the North’s work” but sought to play down Kim Yong Chol’s role.

“There are limits to pinpointing those who were directly responsible”, he said.Kim Yong Chol’s presence is widely seen as a demonstration of how Pyongyang is using the Olympics-driven rapprochement to test the limits of multiple different sanctions imposed on it over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.The general is blacklisted under Seoul’s unilateral measures against the North - meaning he is subject to an assets freeze - although he is not named in the UN Security Council’s sanctions.In an editorial, the conservative Chosun Ilbo daily said: “By sending Kim Yong Chol, the North is in effect insulting the South and the bereaved victims of the Cheonan.”