Trump says US mulling ‘very severe’ response to North Korea missile test

Donald Trump has said he is considering some “very severe things” in response to North Korea’s successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) this week, as he called on other nations to exert pressure on Pyongyang over its “very bad behaviour”.

The president’s comments, made in Poland, came after the US ambassador to the UN made a push for new sanctions at a security council meeting and said America’s “considerable military forces” could be used against North Korea.

Nikki Haley told the meeting the US would submit a draft resolution within days “that raises the international response in a way that is proportionate to North Korea’s escalation”, but warned Washington had options if diplomacy failed.

“The United States is prepared to use the full range of our capabilities to defend ourselves and our allies,” Haley said. “One of our capabilities lies with our considerable military forces. We will use them, if we must, but we prefer not to have to go in that direction.”

She said the US was eyeing penalties against “any country that does business with this outlaw regime”.

Trump said the US would confront the North Korean threat, but noted that he would not draw a red line. “I don’t like to talk about what I have planned, but I have some pretty severe things that we’re thinking about,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to do them.”

Donald Trump with Chinese president Xi Jinping
Donald Trump with Xi Jinping. The US president has attacked China over its trade ties with North Korea. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

Some administration officials are still hoping to persuade China to increase economic pressure on Pyongyang.

Trump is scheduled to meet the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, where he will travel from Poland later on Thursday.

Trump and Vladimir Putin are also expected to address growing North Korean provocations at their meeting on Friday.

Haley did not go into detail about the proposed resolution but said that if the council was united, the international community could cut off major sources of hard currency to North Korea, restrict oil to its military and weapons programs, increase air and maritime restrictions, and hold senior officials accountable.

China has already called for restraint from all sides, after joining diplomatic forces with Russia to suggest that North Korea suspend its missile programme in return for a moratorium on large-scale US and South Korean military exercises.

China is pushing for talks between world powers and North Korea on dismantling its nuclear programme but the US maintains that Pyongyang must first halt its missile and nuclear tests.

China’s UN ambassador, Liu Jieyi, said North Korea’s missile test was a “flagrant violation” of UN resolutions, but aimed his missive at both sides of the conflict.

“We call on all the parties concerned to exercise restraint, avoid provocative actions, and belligerent rhetoric, demonstrate the will for unconditional dialogue and work actively together to defuse the tension,” Jieyi said.

That would cover deployments like the live-fire ballistic missile exercise early on Wednesday that officials in Seoul said was intended as a warning to Pyongyang.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday that the missile test-fired by North Korea was not one the US had previously seen, and was fired from a new launch point.

Jeff Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that as no airspace had been cleared for the test, commercial planes and ships in the surrounding area had been exposed to risk. He said: “This act demonstrates that North Korea poses a threat to the United States and our allies and we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies and to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal.”

Kim delivered his own message on Wednesday, with the state Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoting him as saying: “American bastards would be not very happy with this gift sent on the July 4 anniversary.”

The news agency claimed the North Korean missile was capable of carrying a “large, heavy nuclear warhead” that could survive re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.

Kim Jong-un celebrates with military officials after missile launch.
Kim Jong-un celebrates with military officials after missile launch. Photograph: KCNA/Reuters

Kim was quoted as saying the North’s long confrontation with Washington had entered the “final stage” and that Pyongyang would not put its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles up for negotiation “unless the US hostile policy and nuclear threats come to an end completely”.

A report in its state media said Kim urged his scientists to “frequently send big and small ‘gift packages’ to the Yankees”.

Questions remain about whether the North can miniaturize a nuclear weapon to fit a missile nosecone, or if it has mastered the technology needed for it to survive re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.

Some experts believe the North already has the ability to mount warheads on shorter-range missiles that can strike South Korea and Japan, home to dozens of US military bases and about 80,000 US troops.

Source: The Guardian