Washington signaled that a stronger response is in store Tuesday after North Korea ignored earlier warnings and sanctions aimed at curbing its provocative actions and lobbed a missile over Japan.
U.S. President Donald Trump warned that “all options” are in play for dealing with the North, suggesting that Washington may consider military strikes against the isolated nuclear nation following its latest test, which flew over Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido early Tuesday, triggering sirens and announcements instructing residents to take cover.
"Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime's isolation in the region and among all nations of the world," Trump said in a White House statement, adding that "all options are on the table."
Last week, Trump suggested that his earlier warnings of “fire and fury” had effectively caused North Korea to halt testing, but the new missile test shows that regime leader Kim Jong Un is undeterred. Pyongyang has also resisted repeated calls from Washington to come to the negotiating table.
The U.S. and Japan had called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations’ Security Council following the test, and Washington’s U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley told Agence France-Presse that discussions would center on “what else is left to do” to rein in the North.
“It's unacceptable,” Haley said, adding that North Korea had "violated every single U.N. Security Council resolution that we've had, and so I think something serious has to happen,” without providing any details.
Haley suggested that new sanctions could be discussed and expressed hope that China and Russia would continue to work with the U.S. on the issue.
Earlier on Tuesday, U.S. Senator Cory Gardner called for “additional pressure on all entities that enable” North Korea in a message posted to his Twitter account.
“China and Russia must finally join us to pressure North Korea into peaceful denuclearization,” he wrote, adding that the missile launch over Japan was “reckless” and “intended to drive conflict.”
Senator Lindsey Graham also tweeted that the missile test was a “big-time escalation of conflict,” adding that “clearly North Korean sanctions are not working the way we had hoped.”
“Trump Admin must forcefully respond to convince N. Korea their efforts to destabilize the region & world will not be allowed to mature,” the senator wrote.
Likelihood of military action
John Park, director of the Korea Working Group at the Harvard Kennedy School, told RFA’s Korean Service Tuesday that the likelihood of U.S. military action against the North is “increasing” with the latest test.
But he noted that the North’s decision to fire its missile over Japan’s more sparsely-populated northern island was intended to avoid confrontation. Pyongyang had also recently threatened to fire missiles into waters off the U.S. island territory of Guam, located southwest of Japan.
“If they went southward, that’s where it could potentially trigger a U.S. or Japanese military response,” Park said.
“So I think from that perspective, they were very careful in order to accomplish their goal of testing range but do it in a way that doesn’t provoke military reaction.”
James Przystub, a defense policy expert with the Institute for National Strategic Studies, warned against a military response, which he said “threatens a much wider engagement” that the U.S. is not interested in pursuing.
“But I think we’re going to be looking for some way to evidence to North Korea our extreme displeasure with their action,” he said.
Przystub added that any response would need to be coordinated with U.S. ally South Korea, whose capital, Seoul, is well within range of artillery strikes from the North.
“That’s the starting point for any potential response,” he said.
The North and the South remain technically at war because the 1953 armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War has never been replaced by a peace treaty.
Reported by RFA’s Korean Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.