WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump reiterated that the military option remains on the table to counter North Korea's nuclear threat, though he hoped he would not have to use it.
“I would prefer not going the route of the military but it’s something certainly that could happen. Our military has never been stronger,” the President told journalists on Thursday (Sept 7) in answer to a question on North Korea at a joint press conference with the visiting Emir of Kuwait.
“If we do use it on North Korea, it’ll be a very sad day for North Korea,” he warned.
His remarks came a day after North Korea held a massive celebration in Pyongyang of its nuclear test last weekend, featuring fireworks and thousands of people, with speakers denouncing “the gangster-like US imperialists.”
Experts also believe North Korea is gearing up for another missile test in the very near future.
The US, in a draft UN Security Council resolution that will be put to the vote in the chamber next Monday, has proposed its navy be given a wide mandate to use “all necessary measures” to hunt down North Korean ships at sea, the New York Times reported.
The resolution would allow the US to stop all shipments of crude oil, petroleum, and natural gas to North Korea, the newspaper said.
Meantime, a senior US administration official said the danger of miscalculation turning the standoff with North Korea into a conflict is rising as a direct result of North Korea's efforts.
The senior administration official, briefing journalists on a conference call, said: “The important thing is everybody needs to do more to address this threat from North Korea. This is a global problem now with global consequences if we fail now in the eleventh hour to put an end to this nuclear programme.”
“Everyone needs to do more and all options are on the table,” he said. "Military action is certainly an option. We will not allow (North Korea) to extort and threaten the world.”
The official ruled out cutting back the US’ military exercises in the region – a reference to a Chinese proposal of a freeze on joint military exercises in exchange to a freeze of North Korea’s tests.
“The US is not going to stop training its forces together with our allies in exchange for a freeze on tests” the official said. “The exercise we’ve been doing routinely with SK (South Korea) have been going on for decades now."
"There have actually been a couple of years in the past couple of decades when the US scaled back or even cancelled exercises in the hope that would somehow lead to the denuclearisation of North Korea and that has failed miserably and we thing that’s a misguided way to approach the problem.”
Sanctions pressure on North Korea was still far short of what had been applied to Iran and Iraq, so there was still a long way to go to increase the pressure on the Pyongyang regime.
“We’re testing for the first time really how effective sanctions can be in bringing about a change in North Korea’s calculus,” he said.
“We’re doing sanctions because they are a peaceful tool to bring about the denuclearisation of the peninsula, and I’d argue we haven’t really applied significant sanctions; we only started that really in 2016 and we doubled down on that in 2017.
Asked about the US’ faith that China would fully implement sanctions, he said it had become increasingly clear to the Chinese government, military and society that North Korea was a “grave strategic liability” for China.
“North Korea is gravely destabilising the region and raising the risk of a horrendous conflict on China’s border” the official said