Monday 23 April 2018

All options on table over North Korea, says Trump

Military action being considered after Pyongyang launched missile over Japan

A South Korean missile is test-fired at an undisclosed location in the country. Photo: AP
A South Korean missile is test-fired at an undisclosed location in the country. Photo: AP

Barney Henderson

Donald Trump has signalled once again that he is considering military action against North Korea after the pariah state tested world patience by launching a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time.

US President Mr Trump said: "The world has received North Korea's latest message loud and clear: this regime has signalled its contempt for its neighbours, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behaviour.

"Threatening and destabilising actions only increase the North Korean regime's isolation in the region and among all nations of the world," adding: "All options are on the table."

US military planners have a range of options, from pre-emptive strikes to destroy missiles before they can be launched to an assault designed to bring about regime change.

The latest launch was particularly provocative. Not only was it the first time North Korea hurled a ballistic missile over Japan, it came days after Mr Trump said his hardline approach to Pyongyang was working.

Earlier this month, he promised "fire and fury" would meet further North Korean provocations.

Credit: Graphic News
Credit: Graphic News

Nikki Haley, the US permanent representative to the United Nations, demanded immediate Security Council action.

"No country should have missiles flying over them like those 130 million people in Japan. It's unacceptable," she said, calling on China and Russia to work with other nations in reining in the threat.

China - which has long hoped that negotiations could settle the crisis - admitted that the test could be a "tipping point".

UK Prime Minister Theresa May added her condemnation as she prepared to set off for a three-day visit to Japan. A Downing Street spokesman said: "The prime minister is outraged by North Korea's reckless provocation and she strongly condemns these illegal tests."

South Korea, meanwhile, released a video of its military conducting live fire drills, with explosions, fighter jets and an air force officer warning they "will exterminate the leadership of North Korea" if their country is threatened.

The launch of the mid-range ballistic missile sparked deep anxiety in Japan where residents were told to take cover.

Further afield, it will be interpreted as one of the most outrageous acts to be carried out by the rogue nation in recent years.

Firing a projectile designed to carry a nuclear payload over a close US ally was an unmistakable message for Mr Trump, who at a rally in Phoenix last week said he believed Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, was "starting to respect us".

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo: REUTERS
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo: REUTERS

The missile flew for around 2,700km, reaching a maximum altitude of 560km, South Korean officials said.

The Japanese military made no attempt to shoot down the unidentified missile, but condemned the launch in the strongest terms possible.

The missile sparked a frantic round of diplomatic activity. Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, said he had a 40-minute phone conversation with Mr Trump shortly after the missile splashed into the Pacific after breaking up following its 1,700-mile journey.

He described it as a "reckless act", adding: "This launch of a North Korean missile is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat to Japan. Japan's and the US positions are totally at one."

The United Nations Security Council was due to hold an emergency meeting last night.

South Korea conducted live fire drills which saw four F-15 fighters drop eight MK-84 bombs that hit targets at a military field near South Korea's eastern coast.

Seoul also released footage of its own missile tests it says were conducted last week, which showed the development of its "kill chain" pre-emptive strike capability.

Mr Kim has overseen more than 80 missile tests - more than both his father and grandfather combined.

The regime fired several short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast on Saturday in what was thought to be a response to US-South Korean joint military exercises.

Saturday's launch was the first since Pyongyang test-fired intercontinental ballistic missiles on July 28 that could have been designed to reach 10,000km, putting parts of the US mainland within reach. The North Korean dictator threatened to target Guam, the US territory, with a missile.

Analysts speculated the North may have tested a Hwasong-12 missile, a new intermediate-range projectile that Pyongyang recently threatened to fire towards Guam.

The missile landed nowhere near Guam, which is about 2,500km south of Tokyo, but the length of yesterday's launch may have been designed for the North to show it could follow through on its threat. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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