All options on table in tackling N. Korea: US

This undated picture released on March 7, 2017, shows the launch of four ballistic missiles by the Korean People's Army (KPA) during a military drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea.
This undated picture released on March 7, 2017, shows the launch of four ballistic missiles by the Korean People's Army (KPA) during a military drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea. PHOTO: AFP

Washington dismisses China's suggestion that the US and South Korea suspend military exercises

UNITED NATIONS • The United States says "all options are on the table" to deal with North Korea and dismissed China's suggestion of a dual suspension of US and South Korea military drills and Pyongyang's missile and nuclear tests.

"We are not dealing with a rational person," US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after the UN Security Council discussed North Korea's launch of four ballistic missiles on Monday.

"It is an unbelievable, irresponsible arrogance that we are seeing coming out of Kim Jong Un at this time," Ms Haley said on Wednesday.

She said the administration of US President Donald Trump was re-evaluating how it would handle North Korea and that "all options are on the table", adding: "We are making those decisions now and we will act accordingly."

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration is weighing everything from the use of military force to recognising North Korea as a nuclear state.

North Korea fired the missiles into the sea off Japan's coast in response to the annual US-South Korea military drills, which Pyongyang sees as preparation for war. The North Koreans have fired dozens of missiles and conducted two of their five nuclear tests in the past year in defiance of UN resolutions.

In a statement sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry warned that the military would "reduce the bases of aggression and provocation to ashes with its invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads" if the US and South Korean forces fire even a single bullet at North Korea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday that the tests by the North and the joint drills across the border in South Korea are causing tension to increase like two "accelerating trains coming towards each other", and suggested a "dual suspension" to allow all sides to return to negotiations.

China hosted six-country talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, which brought together North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the US.

But those talks fell apart in 2009, and North Korea has continued to test nuclear weapons and refine missiles that could eventually carry nuclear warheads as far as the continental United States.

"We have to see some sort of positive action taken by North Korea before we can ever take them seriously," Ms Haley said when asked about Beijing's proposal.

Reining in North Korea has also become a focus for the Trump administration's dealings with China. Starting next week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is to visit Japan, South Korea and China for talks that will focus on "the advancing nuclear and missile threat" from North Korea, the US State Department said.

While Mr Wang believes that talks are the only acceptable way to resolve the dispute, others say it is too late to convince the North to give up its nuclear weapons.

"There's no solution to this because North Korea won't give up its nuclear weapons," Professor Shen Dingli of Fudan University in Shanghai, who specialises in nuclear proliferation issues, told The New York Times.

North Korea's ties to the global financial system are also under renewed pressure. On Wednesday, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift, issued a statement saying that it had recently moved to ban North Korean banks from accessing its platform.

REUTERS, NYTIMES, BLOOMBERG

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2017, with the headline 'All options on table in tackling N. Korea: US'. Print Edition | Subscribe