The U.S. is finished talking about North Korea and ready for action, the Department of State said Wednesday.
North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile Tuesday evening. U.S. Pacific Command initially assessed that the projectile was a KN-15 intermediate-range missile, a solid-fueled, road-mobile weapon, one possibly representing a step forward for North Korea’s missile program. Reports from the Pentagon Wednesday, however, indicated that the missile may have been an older liquid-fueled, extend-range scud missile fired from a fixed location that malfunctioned during flight and crashed into the sea.
Either way, the test is a North Korean provocation in clear violation of international bans.
“North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday evening in response to the test, “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”
While the word count for Tillerson’s statement is on the low end, his statement may speak volumes about future U.S. policy towards North Korea.
“The clock has now run out, and all options are on the table,” a senior White House official told reporters.
“From the Secretary’s statement last night … the time for talk is over,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton, adding, “We’re considering all the various options in trying to address what has become an increasingly urgent and destabilizing threat.”
Since President Donald Trump took office, North Korea’s behavior has been very provocative. The North has tested three missiles, fired four missiles into the Sea of Japan in a military drill rehearsing strikes on U.S. bases in Japan, and conducted multiple rocket engine tests in possible preparation for the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Furthermore, there is evidence that North Korea may soon conduct a sixth nuclear test.
The Trump administration appears to be taking a hard-line stance on North Korea, a threat the previous administration warned might be one of the most difficult challenges Trump and his team face. The administration just completed its review of the available policy options for North Korea, and while initial options are likely to include tougher sanctions and pressuring Beijing to rein in its troublesome neighbor, the administration may be prepared to take things a step further if necessary.
“China has great influence over North Korea. China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t,” the president told the Financial Times recently, “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.” Representing the Trump administration, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that U.S. patience on this issue has run out.
Trump and his team have been secretive about their specific plans to address the North Korean threat, but the rhetoric suggests a potentially tougher stance than the previous administration.
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