United Nations, United States – The United States (US) on Wednesday warned that North Korea’s leadership will be “utterly destroyed” if war breaks out as it called on countries to cut all diplomatic and trade ties with North Korea – including Chinese oil shipments to Pyongyang.
Washington urged tough action at an emergency meeting of the Security Council called to respond to North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
“The dictator of North Korea made a choice yesterday that brings the world closer to war, not farther from it,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council.
“If war comes, make no mistake: The North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”
US President Donald Trump derided Kim Jong-Un as a “sick puppy” and threatened “major” new sanctions after Pyongyang tested its third ICBM – which it claimed was capable of striking anywhere in the United States.
The test ended a two-month lull in missile tests that had raised hopes for the opening of diplomatic talks.
North Korean leader Kim said the test of the Hwasong-15 weapons system had helped his country achieve the goal of becoming a full nuclear power, as the international community expressed outrage.
“We call on all nations to cut off all ties with North Korea,” Haley told the council.
The US ambassador said Trump had called Chinese President Xi Jinping and urged him to “cut off the oil from North Korea,” a move that would deal a crippling blow to North Korea’s economy.
“That would be a pivotal step in the world’s effort to stop this international pariah,” she said.
Piling pressure on China, Haley said that if Beijing does not act to cut off oil supplies “we can take the oil situation into our own hands.”
The United States earlier this year pressed for a full oil embargo on North Korea but dropped that demand in negotiations on a sanctions resolution with China.
‘The situation will be handled’
The Security Council met at the request of the United States, Japan and South Korea to consider next steps after three rounds of sanctions adopted in the past year failed to push North Korea to change course.
Earlier, Trump – who had traded barbs with Kim for months – had asked Xi to use “all available levers” to press the hermit state.
“Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!” Trump said on Twitter.
So far Wednesday, no new announcements were forthcoming.
Last week, Trump announced new US unilateral sanctions on Pyongyang and returned it to a US list of state sponsors of terror.
There are concerns in Seoul that Trump might be considering military action against the North that could trigger a full-scale war.
Seoul is home to 10 million people and only about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the border – well within range of Pyongyang’s artillery.
Russia urged the United States to scrap military exercises planned with South Korea in December, arguing they would exacerbate tensions.
“It is essential to take a step back,” said Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who urged Washington “to revise its policy of mutual threats and intimidation.”
China once again pressed its proposal that the North stop missile and nuclear tests in exchange for a freeze of US military exercises – a proposal Washington has repeatedly rejected.
North Korean state media said the missile launched Wednesday was more sophisticated than any previously tested by Pyongyang.
“The ICBM Hwasong-15 type weaponry system is an intercontinental ballistic rocket tipped with super-large heavy warhead which is capable of striking the whole mainland of the US,” the North’s official news agency KCNA said.
State television brought out Ri Chun-Hee, a star presenter who only appears for significant developments, to announce the landmark.
“Kim Jong-Un declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power,” she said.
Pyongyang said the missile reached an altitude of 4,475 kilometers and splashed down 950 kilometers from its launch site.
At least one Western expert said the missile’s lofted trajectory suggested an actual range of 13,000 kilometers – enough to hit every major US city.
David Wright, an arms control expert and co-director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the flight parameters of Wednesday’s test pointed to a missile with “more than enough range to reach Washington DC, and in fact any part of the continental United States.”
While Pyongyang has yet to prove its mastery of the re-entry technology required to bring a warhead back through the Earth’s atmosphere, experts believe it is at least on the threshold of developing a working intercontinental nuclear strike capability.
In September, Pyongyang conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and then fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan.
Raft of past sanctions
Over the past year, the Security Council has imposed biting sanctions on Pyongyang aimed at choking off revenue to its military programs.
These include a ban on North Korean exports of coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, trade restrictions and the blacklisting of a number of North Korean entities and officials.
The council has also banned the hiring of North Korean guest workers and capped oil exports, in particular from China, Pyongyang’s main trading partner.
Canada said it would host a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the North Korean threat.
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