US President Donald Trump has openly mocked the leader of nuclear-armed North Korea as a “Rocket Man” while White House advisers say the isolated nation will be “destroyed” unless it shelves its weapons programs and bellicose threats.
The warnings came a day after Kim Jong Un pledged to continue those programs, saying North Korea is nearing its goal of “equilibrium” in military force with the US.
As well as the personal insult, the US ramped up its threats at the UN, with ambassador Nikki Haley saying the UN Security Council has run out of options and added that Washington may soon have little choice but to turn the matter over to the Pentagon.
“If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behaviour, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed,” she said.
Asked about Trump’s description of Kim, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said “Rocket Man” was “a new one and I think maybe for the president”.
But, he said: “That’s where the rockets are coming from. Rockets, though, we ought to probably not laugh too much about because they do represent a great threat to all.”
McMcaster said Kim was “going to have to give up his nuclear weapons because the president has said he’s not going to tolerate this regime threatening the United States and our citizens with a nuclear weapon”.
Asked if that meant Trump would launch a military strike, McMaster said: “He’s been very clear about that, that all options are on the table.”
Kim has threatened Guam, a US territory in the Pacific, and has fired missiles over Japan, a US ally. North Korea also recently tested its most powerful bomb.
The UN Security Council has voted unanimously twice in recent weeks to tighten economic sanctions on North Korea. The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said North Korea was starting to “feel the pinch”.
Trump, in a tweet, asserted that long lines for gas were forming in North Korea, and he said that was “too bad”.
Haley warned of a tougher US response to future North Korean provocations, and said she would be happy to turn the matter over to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “because he has plenty of military options”.
Mattis said after Kim tested a hydrogen bomb earlier this month that the US would answer any threat from the North with a “massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming”.
Trump has threatened to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea if the North continued with its threats. Haley said that wasn’t an empty threat from the president but she declined to describe the president’s intentions.
“If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behaviour, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed and we all know that and none of us want that,” Haley said.
“None of us want war. But we also have to look at the fact that you are dealing with someone who is being reckless, irresponsible and is continuing to give threats not only to the United States, but to all their allies, so something is going to have to be done.”