A frustrated US President Donald Trump hit out at the slow pace of diplomacy Wednesday as nuclear-armed North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un threatened ever more missile tests.
UN diplomats secured yet another unanimous condemnation of Pyongyang’s tests on Tuesday after the North fired an intermediate-range Hwasong-12 over Japan.
But Kim was unmoved by the rebuke and boasted that the launch was a mere “curtain-raiser” — even after Trump issued another of his Twitter tirades.
“The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” Trump declared, implying the threat of yet more sanctions or even a pre-emptive military strike.
Trump’s rhetoric was somewhat undercut, however, by calmer words from US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Speaking after talks with his South Korean counterpart Song Young-Moo, Mattis said: “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”
The Hwasong-12 — an intermediate-range missile capable of reaching Japanese cities or the US island of Guam — that Pyongyang launched on Tuesday represented a major escalation of tensions.
In recent weeks it has threatened to send a salvo of missiles towards Guam, the hub of US air power in the Pacific, while for his part Trump has warned of raining “fire and fury” on the North.
Trump insists “all options” are on the table, an implied threat of pre-emptive US military action, despite last week congratulating himself that Kim appeared to be “starting to respect us”.
The UN Security Council — which has already imposed seven sets of sanctions on Pyongyang — said the North’s “outrageous” actions “are not just a threat to the region, but to all UN member states”.
Both the North’s key ally China and Russia, which also has ties to Pyongyang, backed the US-drafted declaration, but it will not immediately lead to new or tightened sanctions.
UN diplomats said members of the 15-member council had brought up the issue, but it was divided on how to proceed and the only idea revealed publicly was a British bid to prevent North Korean guest workers from travelling abroad.
The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, mouthpiece of the North’s ruling party, on Wednesday carried more than 20 pictures of the launch near Pyongyang.
One showed Kim smiling broadly at a desk with a map of the Northwest Pacific, surrounded by aides. Another showed him gazing upwards as the missile rose into the air.
South Korea’s military said Tuesday that it had travelled around 2,700 kilometers (1,700 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 550 kilometers.
The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Kim as saying that “more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target in the future” were necessary.
Tuesday’s launch was a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam, advanced base of invasion” and a “curtain-raiser” for the North’s “resolute countermeasures” against ongoing US-South Korean military exercises which the North regards as a rehearsal for invasion.