International

North Korea’s missile launch brings us closer to war

The Trump administration threatened new sanctions on North Korea after the reclusive government shattered 2½ months of relative quiet with its most powerful weapon test yet.North Korea’s missile launch brings us closer to war US isn’t seeking.

Nikki Haley, speaking at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, said that if war comes as a result of further acts of “aggression” like the latest launch, “make no mistake the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”

“The dictator of North Korea made a decision yesterday that brings us closer to war, not farther from it,” Haley said. “We have never sought war with North Korea and still today we do not seek it.”

President Donald Trump tweeted that he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping about Pyongyang’s “provocative actions,” and he vowed that “additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!” Trump’s top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, said the US could target financial institutions doing business with the North.

At the emergency Security Council meeting, China’s deputy UN ambassador Wu Haitao reiterated the China-Russia proposal for North Korea to suspend all nuclear and missile tests and for the US and South Korea to suspend all military exercises.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia also urged North Korea to stop the tests and called on the US and South Korea to cancel large-scale military maneuvers scheduled for December.

The fresh deliberations about new forms of punishment for North Korea came after its government said it successfully fired a “significantly more” powerful, nuclear-capable ICBM it called the Hwasong-15. Outside governments and analysts concurred the North had made a jump in missile capability.

A resumption of Pyongyang’s torrid testing pace in pursuit of a viable arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles that can hit the US mainland had been widely expected. But the power of the missile and suddenness of the test jolted the Korean Peninsula and Washington. The launch at 3:17 a.m. Wednesday local time — early Tuesday afternoon in the US capital — indicated an effort to perfect the element of surprise and obtain maximum attention in the US.

The North Korean launch was a message of defiance to the Trump administration after it restored North Korea to a US list of terror sponsors. It raises fears of war or a pre-emptive US strike and casts a deeper shadow over the security of the Winter Olympics early next year in South Korea.

A rattled Seoul responded by almost immediately launching three of its own missiles in a show of force. South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressed worry that North Korea’s missile threat could force the US to attack the North before it masters a nuclear-tipped long-range missile.

The launch was North Korea’s first since Sept. 15 and may have broken any efforts at diplomacy. US officials have sporadically floated the idea of direct talks with North Korea if it maintained restraint.

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