Responding to North Korea’s latest missile launch, which once again sent an ICBM soaring over Japan, White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said on Friday: “We’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road. So for those who have said and have been commenting about the lack of a military option, there is a military option.”
McMaster qualified this statement by saying military action is “not what we would prefer to do.”
“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 advised. “That is implementing now these significant sanctions that have just now gone into place. And it is convincing everyone to do everything that they can – and that it’s in their interest to do it.”
Appearing with McMaster was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who grimly declared, “There’s not a whole lot the Security Council is going to be able to do from here.” The U.N. Security Council met on Friday afternoon to discuss the North Korean launch, as requested by the United States and Japan.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Security Council resolutions “represent the floor, not the ceiling, of the actions we should take.” He called on China and Russia in particular to use their ultimate leverage over North Korea.
“China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labor. China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own,” Tillerson demanded.
“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,” Tillerson told the Community of Democracies on Friday.
China and Russia have not leaped to accept Tillerson’s demand as of yet. Both of North Korea’s patron nations insist that Pyongyang has legitimate grievances that should be settled through negotiations with the U.S. and South Korea. More specifically, China and Russia want the U.S. to accept North Korea’s demand to cease joint military exercises with South Korea to bring the Kim regime to the negotiating table.
On the other hand, the U.S. and South Korea have announced diminishing willingness to talk to North Korea as it continues its provocative missile launches and nuclear tests. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who ran on a platform of improved relations and expanded dialogue with Pyongyang, said after Thursday’s missile launch that “dialogue is impossible in a situation like this.”
“In case North Korea undertakes provocations against us or our ally, we have the power to destroy them beyond recovery,” added Moon, once seen as a liberal dove. He backed up his words with action, ordering a test launch of South Korean missiles into the sea, on a trajectory precisely long enough to have wiped out the launch site for North Korea’s ICBM if the weapons were aimed in that direction.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was on the same page as Moon. “We can never tolerate that North Korea trampled on the international community’s strong, united resolve towards peace that has been shown in UN resolutions and went ahead again with this outrageous act,” he said on Friday.
“If North Korea continues to walk down this path, it has no bright future. We must make North Korea understand this,” Abe said.
Analysts are debating whether North Korea’s shot over Japan was actually meant as a message to Guam as the ICBM flew far enough to theoretically reach the American island. Dictator Kim Jong-un has repeatedly threatened to attack both Guam and Japan with missiles, possibly using nuclear warheads.
Reuters quotes the Union of Concerned Scientists stating North Korea’s latest test proves its Hwasong-14 missile has the range to reach Guam but doubted it has the accuracy to hit the relatively small island target at such long range.