A day after North Korea launched another missile over Japan, the United Nations Security Council condemned the latest act of aggression from the regime of Kim Jong-un while President Donald Trump expressed confidence in America’s ability to quell the threat from Pyongyang.
The ballistic missile that flew over Japan and crashed into the ocean on Thursday was the second projectile North Korea launched over the country in the last two weeks, sustaining months of North Korean threats that included the country conducting its largest-ever nuclear test earlier this month. An American military official said the massive blast likely came from a hydrogen bomb.
After a meeting convened in response to the latest launch, the United Nations Security Council released a statement slamming the “outrageous action”.
“The Security Council stressed that these actions are not just a threat to the region, but to all UN member states,” the 15-member council said in a statement.
It was a sentiment shared by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who made clear the threat the international community faces.
“In East Asia, an increasingly aggressive and isolated regime in North Korea threatens democracies in South Korea, Japan, and more importantly, and more recently, has expanded those threats to the United States, endangering the entire world,” Mr Tillerson said,
Mr Trump – speaking at Joint Andrews military base – echoed that denunciation in saying North Korea “has once again shown its utter contempt for its neighbours and for the entire world community” but touted America’s might having repeatedly promised not to let Pyongyang launch a nuclear missile at the US as Mr Kim’s regime has repeatedly threatened.
”After seeing our capabilities, I am more confident than ever that our options are not only effective but overwhelming” Mr Trump said.
Kim Jong-un inspects weapon North Korea says is powerful hydrogen bomb
His administration has consistently dangled the possibility of a military response, with Mr Trump threatening “fire and fury” and Defense Secretary James Mattis warning America could marshal enough force for “the total annihilation of a country”.
Responding to the threats of potential military action, North Korea state media said that the country’s goal is reaching “equilibrium” of military force with the United States.
“Our final goal is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the US and make the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option for the DPRK [North Korea],” Kim Jong-un was cited as saying in the report.
Diplomatic measures have so far yielded little progress. The United Nations has tightened two rounds of sanctions around North Korea in recent months, imposing fresh export restrictions after the nuclear test. But North Korea has continued to menace the world with displays of its evolving military prowess.
The world’s capacity to confront North Korea will be tested during an imminent meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, the first full gathering of the international body during Mr Trump’s tenure.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, National Security Adviser HR McMaster urged “rigorous enforcement” of new UN sanctions so “we can really let the economic actions and diplomacy progress as best we can”, but he also stressed that “there is a military option”.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, echoed McMaster’s strong rhetoric, saying she had “no problem” in handing the issue to Mr Mattis as he had “plenty of options”.
“What we are seeing is, they are continuing to be provocative, they are continuing to be reckless and at that point there’s not a whole lot the Security Council is going to be able to do from here, when you’ve cut 90 per cent of the trade and 30 per cent of the oil,” Ms Haley said.
Washington has said that the preferred option would be to solve the crisis using diplomatic measures, as Mr Mattis made clear while speaking while on a trip to Mexico . “Now, it’s not what we would prefer to do, so what we have to do is call on all nations, call on everyone to do everything we can to address this global problem short of war”, he said.
Asked whether the UN Security Council could do more – including imposing a full oil embargo, which the United States had sought but dropped after resistance from China and Russia – Ms Halley warned that inflicting too much economic pain could harm the Korean people.
“There’s always more you can do, but then you get into the humanitarian aspect of it, which is at what point are you going and actually hurting down to the people of North Korea”, Ms Halley said.
Mr Trump has consistently pushed for China – North Korea’s largest trading partner – to do more to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and Mr Tillerson pushed China and North Korea’s other ally on the Security Council, Russia, to “indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own“.
Dmitri Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters that Russia “resolutely condemns” the missile test, adding that it will “lead to the further growth of tensions and the further escalation of tensions on the [Korean] peninsula”.
China has repeatedly urged for a peaceful solution to a problem that poses a number of issues for Beijing both foreign and domestic. China’s Foreign Ministry urged all other countries involved not to inflame a “complex, sensitive and severe” situation. Spokeswoman Hua Chunying attempted to take some diplomatic pressure off of China, claiming the parties directly involved should be responsible for resolving the situation.
“Any attempt to wash their hands of the issue is irresponsible and unhelpful for its resolution… What is pressing now is that all sides should immediately halt their dangerous and provocative actions and words that escalate the tension”, she said.