U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused North Korea on Friday of threatening the entire world, and President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said the administration was not ruling out a possible military action against the regime.
The reactions came after North Korea fired a missile over Japan for the second time in under a month in defiance of international pressure over its missile and nuclear programmes.
“There is a military option,” H.R. McMaster, Trump’s security adviser said during a press briefing at the White House, flanked by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
But he clarified that the military option was not a preferred option, hoping that all other diplomatic moves would succeed.
McMaster urged all nations to do more to rein in the North, which he called “one of the world’s most urgent and dangerous security problems.”
In the latest attempt to deal with an issue that has repeatedly frustrated world powers, the U.N. Security Council was due to meet to discuss the missile launch, at the request of the United States and Japan.
The council’s 15 members unanimously stepped up sanctions against North Korea over a nuclear bomb test it staged on September 3, imposing a ban on North Korea’s textile exports and capping its imports of crude oil.
North Korea has launched dozens of missiles under leader Kim Jong Un as it accelerates a weapons programme designed to give it the ability to target the United States with a powerful, nuclear-tipped missile.
Tillerson said in a speech to foreign officials that the tests threaten the world and stressed the United States was working closely with regional allies Japan and South Korea.
“In East Asia, an increasingly aggressive and isolated regime in North Korea threatens democracies in South Korea, Japan, and more importantly, and more recently, has expanded those threats to the United States, endangering the entire world,” Tillerson said.
Taking a tougher line than Tillerson, White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said the United States was fast running out of patience for diplomatic solutions on North Korea.
“We’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road,” McMaster told reporters.
“For those … who have been commenting on a lack of a military option, there is a military option,” he said, adding that it would not be the Trump administration’s preferred choice.
North Korea’s latest test missile flew over Hokkaido in northern Japan on Friday and landed in the Pacific about 2,000 km (1,240 miles) to the east, the Japanese government said.
It traveled about 3,700 km (2,300 miles) in total, according to South Korea’s military, far enough to reach the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, which the North has threatened before.
“The range of this test was significant since North Korea demonstrated that it could reach Guam with this missile,” the Union of Concerned Scientists advocacy group said in a statement. However, the accuracy of the missile, still at an early stage of development, was low, it said.
On Thursday, Tillerson called on China, Pyongyang’s only ally, and Russia to apply more pressure on North Korea by “taking direct actions of their own.
But Beijing pushed back.
Trump will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York next Thursday, McMaster said.