The UN has run out of options for confronting an increasingly belligerent North Korea, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has said, presenting a unified front with Trump administration officials who continue to float a military option ahead of this week’s summit in New York.
“We have pretty much exhausted all the things that we can do at the Security Council at this point,” Haley told CNN, adding that she had “no problem kicking to” Jim Mattis, the US defence secretary. “I think he has plenty of options”.
By claiming that the UN had failed to alter North Korea’s militaristic course, Ms Haley hinted at the limits of diplomacy as the world prepares to gather next week for the first UN General Assembly of Donald Trump’s presidency.
World leaders converging on New York will grapple with confronting North Korea’s unrelenting threats and displays of military ability. Looming behind them will be the prospect of renewed warfare on the Korean peninsula, with Ms Haley alluding to an official – Mr Mattis – who recently stressed America’s ability to marshal and “overwhelming” and “massive” military response that could result in the “total annihilation” of North Korea.
After a two-week stretch in which a defiant North Korea has fired multiple missiles over Japan and likely detonated a hydrogen bomb, the country shows no signs of bending to world condemnation and sanctions clamping down on exports. North Korea has said it would press ahead with its nuclear program despite being hit with the second round of UN sanctions in as many months.
All along, the Trump administration has dangled the option of a military response. Mr Trump sent a cycle of escalating rhetoric whirring in August by warning North Korea that it would face “fire and fury” if it did not relent, a comment that Ms Haley said was “not an empty threat”.
“If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behaviour, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed. And we all know that. And none of us want that. None of us want war,” she said. “We're trying every other possibility that we have, but there’s a whole lot of military options on the table”.
Appearing on ABC television’s This Week, National Security Adviser HR McMaster reiterated that “all options are on the table” if North Korea does not abandon its nuclear weapons program.
“We really have to move with a great deal of urgency, on sanctions, on diplomacy, and on preparing, if necessary, a military option,” Mr McMaster said in a separate appearance on Fox News Sunday.
Earlier in the morning, Mr Trump took to Twitter to seemingly taunt North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – referring to him as “Rocket Man” – and suggest that sanctions were having an effect, writing that “long gas lines are forming in North Korea”.
The comment “appears to be” directed at Mr Kim, Mr McMaster said during his appearance on ABC.
“That is where the rockets and missiles are coming from... North Korea”, Mr McMaster said.
Both US allies and American territory have been in North Korea’s crosshairs as the country has taken an increasingly antagonistic posture toward the rest of the world. The country said it was formulating plans to annihilate Guam, a Pacific island that hosts a significant US military presence, and has fired multiple missiles over Japan.
A North Korean government entity said last week that Japan “should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb” of the regime and warned it would “reduce the US mainland to ashes and darkness”.
In a sign of broad global pressure, Kuwait moved to sever diplomatic ties with North Korea by ordering the nation’s ambassador to leave. That would essentially terminate North Korea’s diplomatic presence in the Gulf region, where Kuwait had been the only country to maintain a North Korean diplomatic mission, according to Reuters.
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