Donald Trump calls Kim Jong-un ‘a sick puppy’ and promises sanctions as North Korea calls latest missile test a ‘breakthrough’

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Donald Trump has labelled North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un “a sick puppy,” as his ambassador to the UN said that the regime in Pyongyang would be “utterly destroyed” if war were to break out in the wake of the latest ballistic missile test by Pyongyang.

The intercontinental ballistic missile travelled around 1,000 km and remained airborne for just under an hour before plunging into the sea near Japan, with North Korea claiming it as a “breakthrough” that will allow it to strike the mainland United States.

Thee US has taken the lead among world powers in calling for tougher action against North Korea and has repeatedly made clear the threat Pyongyang poses, often using bellicose rhetoric. UN ambassador Nikki Haley was no different, telling an emergency session of the UN Security Council that there would only be one winner if military force was required.

“We have never sought war with North Korea, and still… we do not seek it, Ms Haley said. “If war does come, it will be because of continued acts of aggression like we witnessed … And if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.” 

Ms Haley also called on all nations to “cut ties” with North Korea.

Earlier, President Trump used a rally in Missouri – where he was discussing tax reform – to revive his “little rocket man” taunt against Mr Kim – and having urged for restraint in rhetoric, regional allies such as South Korea may view the latest insults by Mr Trump with trepidation. North Korean state media has repeatedly called Mr Trump an “old lunatic” – with the US president’s added jibe of Mr Kim being “a sick puppy” being in a similar vein that many will not find helpful.

He seemingly could not help responding to the way North Korea trumpeted launch, with a state media lauding the “greatest ICBM” as a “significantly more powerful” weapon capable of being armed with a “super-large heavy nuclear warhead” that could attack the “whole mainland” of the United States. The country has repeatedly threatened the United States and its Asian allies with military action.

“After watching the successful launch of the new type ICBM Hwasong-15, Kim Jong-un declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power,” a statement read on state television said.

It the third time in recent months North Korea has displayed its advancing military prowess by hurling a projectile towards Japan. It has also tested what was almost certainly its first hydrogen bomb.

In the morning Mr Trump tweeted that “major” sanctions would be imposed as the UN and world powers seek a more effective way forcing North Korea to go no further down its current path towards the nuclear weapons it believes it needs to defend itself. Assessing the impact of the latest missile launch, US Secretary of Defence James Mattis said it had flown higher than any previous launch and advanced North Korea’s goal of being able to “threaten everywhere in the world”. An expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists calculated that the missile’s trajectory could theoretically allow it to hit Washington, DC.

World leaders from Germany to China to Russia condemned the launch and urged North Korea to abandon its military ambitions. Mr Trump, who has persistently warned that America is willing to punish North Korea with military force, with multiple rounds of United Nations sanctions and Mr Trump’s recent move to declare North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, achieving little.

 

A day after saying his administration would “take care of it,” Mr Trump also tweeted he had spoken to Chinese President Xi Jingping about the crisis. Mr Trump has pushed for China – North Korea’s largest trading partner and the nation able to exert the most pressure economically and politically – to do more to rein in Pyongyang. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that financial institutions could be among the targets for a “long list of additional potential sanctions” at the global community’s disposal, building on his previous comment that “diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now”.

According to a readout of Mr Trump’s call with the Chinese President, Mr Trump “emphasized the need for China to use all available levers to convince North Korea to end its provocations and return to the path of denuclearization”. 

China’s Foreign Ministry expressed “grave concern and opposition” to the launch by its neighbour and economic partner and urged “all parties” to “act cautiously to preserve peace and stability”.

The country has broken with Mr Trump’s approach in rejecting the use of military force to resolve tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and it has reprimanded both North Korea and the United States for fuelling a cycle of aggression. It has urged the United States to halt joint military exercise with South Korea that North Korea considers a prelude to war.

Mr Trump has matched North Korea’s violent rhetoric, warning America would rain down “fire and fury” on the nation. While seeking to temper such rhetoric, a number of other nations have made clear that action must be taken now to avert potential catastrophe.

France’s UN. Ambassador Francois Delattre said ahead of the Security Council meeting that the threat from North Korea has changed dramatically over a few months to being global and immediate and France wants tougher sanctions to maximize pressure on Mr Kim’s regime. 

Mr Delattre said that the scope and scale of the North’s nuclear threat has moved from being regional and “potential,” arguing that now “weakness or ambiguity are simply not an option.” 

He added: “Maximum firmness… is our best antidote to the risk of war and our best tool to promote a political solution”.