Images released by North Korea on Thursday appeared to show it has succeeded in developing a missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon anywhere in the United States and it could be only two or three tests away from being declared combat ready, U.S.-based experts said on Thursday.
North Korea released dozens of photos and a video after Wednesday’s launch of the new Hwasong-15 missile, and leader Kim Jong Un declared the country had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force”.
U.S.-based experts, some of whom have been skeptical about past North Korean claims to have put all of the United States in range, said data from the latest test and the photos appeared to confirm North Korea has a missile of sufficient power to deliver a nuclear warhead anywhere in America.
The Trump administration has repeatedly said all options are on the table in dealing with North Korea’s ballistic and nuclear weapons programmes, including military ones, but that it still prefers a diplomatic option.
Speaking at an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting, U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley said the United States had never sought war with North Korea.
“If war does come, it will be because of continued acts of aggression like we witnessed yesterday,” she said. “…and if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”
Haley said the United States has asked China to cut off oil supply to North Korea, a drastic step that Beijing – the North’s neighbour and sole major trading partner – has so far refrained from doing. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping talked on the phone earlier on Wednesday.
“Just spoke to President Xi Jinping of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea. Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Previous U.S. administrations have failed to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and a sophisticated missile programme. Trump, who has previously said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary to protect itself and its allies from the nuclear threat, has also struggled to contain Pyongyang since he came to office in January.
Urging China to use its leverage and promising more sanctions against North Korea are two strategies that have borne little fruit so far.
In a speech in Missouri about taxes, Trump, who has traded insults with the North in the past, referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with a derisive nickname.
“Little Rocket Man. He is a sick puppy,” Trump said.
U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed a Chinese diplomatic effort to rein in North Korea’s weapons program as a failure on Thursday, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Beijing was doing a lot, but could do more to limit oil supplies to Pyongyang.
In a tweet, Trump delivered another insulting barb against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who he called “Little Rocket Man” and a “sick puppy” after North Korea test-fired its most advanced missile to date on Wednesday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Washington’s approach was dangerously provocative.
Trump’s tweets further inflamed tensions reignited this week after North Korea said it had successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile in a “breakthrough” that put the U.S. mainland within range of its nuclear weapons whose warheads could withstand re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.
“The Chinese envoy, who just returned from North Korea, seems to have had no impact on Little Rocket Man,” Trump said on Twitter, a day after speaking with Chinese President Chinese President Xi Jinping and reiterating his call for Beijing to use its leverage against North Korea.
Tillerson on Thursday welcomed Chinese efforts on North Korea, but said Beijing could do more to limit its oil exports to the country.
“The Chinese are doing a lot. We do think they could do more with the oil. We’re really asking them to please restrain more of the oil, not cut it off completely,” Tillerson said at the State Department. China is North Korea’s neighbor and its sole major trading partner.
North Korea has tested dozens of ballistic missiles under Kim’s leadership and conducted its sixth and largest nuclear bomb test in September.
It has said its weapons programs are a necessary defense against U.S. plans to invade. The United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, denies any such intention.
Previous U.S. administrations have failed to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and a sophisticated missile program. Trump, who has previously said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary to protect itself and its allies from the nuclear threat, has also struggled to contain Pyongyang since taking office in January.