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