Don­ald Trump’s newly an­nounced visit to East Asia in Novem­ber is loom­ing as a cru­cial op­por­tu­nity — per­haps the last — to bring the ma­jor play­ers on to the same page be­fore North Korea com­pletes its in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal nu­clear mis­sile pro­gram.

North Korean “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-un said at the week­end that his “fi­nal goal” was se­cur­ing “the equi­lib­rium of real force with the US”.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil “strongly con­demned” Py­ongyang’s long­est mis­sile shoot, 3700km over Ja­pan — 12 days af­ter its big­gest nu­clear test.

The speed of Kim’s mil­i­tary prepa­ra­tions is di­vid­ing key coun­tries. Tough UN sanc­tions pro­posed by the US last week, in­clud­ing cut­ting off oil sup­plies to North Korea, were wa­tered down by Rus­sia and China.

China’s am­bas­sador to the US, Cui Tiankai, re­sponded to Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son’s call to Bei­jing and Moscow to “take di­rect ac­tions of their own” against North Korea by say­ing the US should stop mak­ing threats and “do more to find ef­fec­tive ways to re­sume di­a­logue and ne­go­ti­a­tion”.

Rus­sia’s UN am­bas­sador, Vass­ily Neben­zia, also crit­i­cised Mr Tiller­son, while ex­press­ing frus­tra­tion over the fail­ure of UN ef­forts to halt the stream of bomb and mis­sile tests. “We’re re­ally in a vi­cious cir­cle of provo­ca­tions then UN res­o­lu­tions,” he said.

He called on the US to dis­man­tle the Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fence anti-mis­sile sys­tem in South Korea and hold talks with Py­ongyang, de­mands fre­quently made by Bei­jing.

China and Rus­sia are ex­pected to start 10 days of naval ex­er­cises today in the Sea of Ja­pan east of North Korea, and in the Sea of Okhotsk to the north of Ja­pan, off Rus­sia’s Pa­cific coast.

China has shifted much of its naval train­ing from the South China Sea to wa­ters closer to North Korea. Mr Cui op­posed calls for South Korea and Ja­pan to de­velop nu­clear ca­pac­i­ties, say­ing: “It could only make things much worse.”

US na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser HR McMaster said over the week­end: “We have been kick­ing the can down the road, and we’re out of road … There is a mil­i­tary op­tion (but) what we have to do is call on all na­tions to do ev­ery­thing we can to ad­dress this global prob­lem, short of war.”

Mr Trump said he would visit China, Ja­pan and South Korea in 10-day Asian tour. He may at­tend the APEC sum­mit in Danang, Viet­nam, on Novem­ber 11 and the East Asia Sum­mit, in An­ge­les, in The Philip­pines, on Novem­ber 13. P11

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