President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser, HR McMaster, has said that North Korea is a threat to the "entire world", calling on all nations to do more to counter the moves of Pyongyang.
He said that the US remains committed to the goal of the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, and that Mr Trump would use his upcoming trip to Asia to reiterate the "plain fact" that the nuclear ambitions of the North are a threat to all.
Mr Trump will tell leaders during the five-nation tour that the world is “running out of time” on stopping North Korea's nuclear crisis and that the United States is prepared to defend itself if needed.
Mr Trump leaves on Friday for Hawaii, the first stop en route to Asia where he will visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. It will be the longest Asia tour by an American president in more than 25 years.
“The president recognises that we're running out of time [to deal with North Korea] and will ask all nations to do more,” White House national security adviser Mr McMaster said.
He said Trump would urge countries with the most influence over Pyongyang to “convince its leaders that the pursuit of nuclear weapons is a dead end”.
“And he will remind friend and foe alike that the United States stands ready to defend itself and our allies using the full range of our capabilities,” said Mr McMaster.
Perhaps Mr Trump's most critical stop will be in China, where he will ask Chinese President Xi Jinping to do more to rein in North Korea. Senior U.S. officials say China considers North Korea a strategic asset and is reluctant to cut off resources to Pyongyang for fear of triggering a refugee wave.
Mr McMaster said Mr Trump, who has approved a variety of sanctions against North Korea while pressing China to do more, is at the beginning of his drive for Pyongyang to give up nuclear weapons. Mr Trump has warned he would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened the United States.
“I think we have to be a little patient here for at least a few months to see what more we and others can do, including China,” said Mr McMaster. “I don't think we need to reassess our strategy now. I think we have to give it a couple of months, a few months, and then see what adjustments we might need to make.”
Mr Trump is expected to press Mr Xi to reduce oil exports to North Korea to China, coal imports from Pyongyang and limit financial transactions. The Chinese leader is newly ascendant after consolidating power at a Communist Party congress.
North Korea could also be re-added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. “You'll hear more about that soon, I think,” said Mr McMaster.
Mr McMaster cited the killing this year in a Malaysian airport of the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader as an act of terrorism that could lead to the North's placement on a list that currently includes only Iran, Sudan and Syria.
Kim Jong Nam died in February after two women rubbed his face with a liquid later identified as VX nerve agent as he passed through the airport in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia has never directly accused North Korea, but South Korea's spy agency has claimed the attack was part of a plot by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to kill his brother.
Mr McMaster said: “A regime who murders someone in a public airport using nerve agent, a despotic leader who murders his brother in that manner, that's clearly an act of terrorism that fits in with a range of other actions.”
He also said adding North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism “is something that's under consideration”.
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