U.S. officials have warned that its patience with North Korea has run out and it won't back down from exploring a military solution to the ongoing crisis on the Korean peninsula, despite protests from regional powers Russia and China.
“We have pretty much exhausted all the things that we can do at the Security Council at this point,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that she was happy to let Defense Secretary James Mattis handle the matter and “there's a whole lot of military options on the table.”
The comments come one week after the 15-member U.N. Security Council agreed to impose a new round of sanctions on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as North Korea prefers to be called. The sanctions were significantly watered down following objections by the DPRK's allies China and Russia, who threatened to veto Haley's original draft resolution.
Haley's comments are also a rebuff to China, whose ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, noted on Friday that the U.S. wasn't doing enough to resume dialogue and negotiations but persisted in issuing more threats.
"Honestly, I think the United States should be doing … much more than now, so that there's real effective international cooperation on this issue," Cui said, noting that it firmly opposes the nuclear weapons anywhere on the Korean peninsula and would never recognize the DPRK as a nuclear state.
Pyongyang has been accelerating its weapons program in hopes of gaining the ability to target the United States in a bid to deter any attempts to topple its leader Kim Jong-Un and gain an “equilibrium” of force with the DPRK.
Trump plans to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in this week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
“I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night. Asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!” Trump said in a Twitter post on Sunday morning.
A statement from South Korea's presidential office noted that Moon and Trump pledged to strengthen collaboration and thoroughly back the recent round of sanctions while urging the DPRK to refrain from further weapons tests.
Military options available to Trump range from a sea blockade aimed at enforcing sanctions to cruise missile strikes on nuclear and missile facilities to a broader campaign aimed at regime change.
“If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, 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,” Haley told CNN.
Mattis has warned the consequences of any military action would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale” and bring severe risk to U.S. ally South Korea.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the U.S. has attempted to engage Pyongyang, to no avail.
“We have tried a couple of times to signal to them that we’re ready, when they’re ready,” he said. “And they have responded with more missile launches and a nuclear test.”
According to an article last week in the Russian newspaper Izvetstia, high-ranking Russian diplomatic sources claim that Pyongyang refuses to take part in talks mediated by third parties, insisting that it will only discuss a solution to the crisis in the context of bilateral talks with Washington, from whom it hopes to extract security guarantees.
In recent weeks Switzerland, Sweden, and Germany have offered to act as mediators in the crisis but none have received a response.
Speaking to TASS Russian News Agency, regional analyst Vasily Kashin noted Pyongyang's need for an absence of preconditions and its own requirements for denuclearization.
"Only then will it be prepared to hold talks not about renouncing nuclear weapons, but about limiting and abandoning the tests of these weapons," he noted, adding that the DPRK also hopes for the withdrawal of the 28,000 U.S. troops based in South Korea and an end to military exercises in the Korean peninsula.