WASHINGTON • The White House is considering a range of actions that go as far as cutting off economic ties to countries that do business in North Korea, US President Donald Trump has said in a tweet aimed squarely at China.
While such a drastic step is unlikely, the US could push ahead with penalties on Chinese banks and moves to cut off oil exports to North Korea, both of which have been considered in the past.
While Mr Trump has few military avenues that would not risk widespread collateral damage for US allies South Korea and Japan, imposing big sanctions against Chinese banks could set off a "gunfight at the OK Corral", said Mr Doug Paal, vice-president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
Mr Trump convened a meeting with military leaders on Sunday after North Korea's underground nuclear test, which the regime said showed "unprecedentedly big power". Mr Trump earlier posted a series of tweets that criticised South Korea for pursuing "appeasement" with Pyongyang and threatened a trade embargo against countries that do business with the North.
China is North Korea's largest trading partner and its main ally.
The President followed those tweets by telling reporters "we'll see" when asked whether he plans to attack North Korea.
The Group of Seven (G-7) countries yesterday condemned North Korea's latest missile test and pledged to take further action to ensure the Asian state completely abandons its nuclear programme.
"North Korea must immediately and fully comply with all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and abandon all nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner," a G-7 statement said.
Countries including the United States, Japan and South Korea, had called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council yesterday, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Sunday on Twitter.
Mr Trump, who has recently criticised the US trade deal with South Korea, voiced frustration with President Moon Jae In on Twitter on Sunday. "South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work. They only understand one thing!" Mr Trump said.
While Mr Trump has floated the idea of an all-out trade embargo against China, several top Republicans in Congress are pushing for a more realistic set of sanctions that would crack down on countries doing business with North Korea.
China provides North Korea with most of its energy supplies and accounts for upwards of 90 per cent of North Korea's total trade volume.
Options include sanctions cutting off some Chinese banks from the US financial system and an economic blockade targeting oil shipments to North Korea.