North Korea’s second provocative missile test over Japan has heightened concerns that time is running out for the international community to find a diplomatic solution to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
The hermit kingdom launched its second ballistic missile of the year over Japan on September 15, occurring just days after the U.N. implemented stronger sanctions.
The tougher sanctions followed the rouge nation’s September 3 test of a nuclear device 17 times more powerful than the bomb that devastated the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945.
North Korea via its state media has threatened to “sink” Japan and to turn the U.S. into “ashes and darkness” over the strengthened economic sanctions.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said on the same day the missile flew over Japan that the sanctions are just coming into effect.
“We’ve basically taken and, in the words of North Korea, we have strangled their economic situation at this point. That’s going to take a little bit of time, but it has already started to take effect,” Haley said at a press briefing at the White House.
“What we are seeing is they continue to be provocative, they continue to be reckless,” she said.
The ambassador told media that the most recent sanctions bill was tough and gave the example that it cut 90 percent of trade going into North Korea. She said it could be tougher, but humanitarian grounds were considered as it would affect the welfare of everyday North Koreans.
The initial draft of the resolution was also weakened to gain the backing of China and Russia, reported the media.
“Now, how they [the North Korean regime] choose to respond, this is totally in their hands on how they respond,” she said.
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@Scavino45) September 15, 2017
At the same press briefing, national security adviser H.R. McMaster stressed that rigorous enforcement of the sanctions needs to be carried out to allow economic actions and diplomacy to work as best as they can.
But McMaster added that time is running out for the international community to deal with the problem.
“As Ambassador Haley said before, we’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road,” McMaster said.
“And so for those who have said and have been commenting about the lack of a military option, there is a military option,” he said.
“Now, it’s not what we would prefer to do, so what we have to do is call on all nations, call on everyone to do everything we can to address this global problem short of war,” he said.
“So that is implementing now these significant sanctions that have just now gone into place, and it is convincing everyone to do everything that they can and that it’s in their interest to do it.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2017
Speaking on Fox News, East Asia analyst Gordon Chang described sanctions as half measures and a tool that relies on the international community enforcing the measures, a process of which, he said, takes time.
“But we don’t have that much time because the North Koreans are nine months [or] a year, maybe 15 months away of being able to put a nuke on top a missile that will be able to reach the American homeland,” said Chang.
“We don’t have very much time to figure this out. Ten years ago, we could deal in U.S. sanctions and half measures, not anymore,” he said.
In a recent Gallup poll, a majority of Americans would support military action against North Korea if peaceful means fail.
“More specifically, 58 percent say they would favor taking military action against North Korea if economic and diplomatic efforts fail to achieve the United States’ goals,” wrote Lydia Saad for Gullup in a report published September 15.
Broken down along political leanings, the survey found 87 percent of Republicans supporting military action while only 37 percent of Democrats offered such support.
For more on how North Korea’s latest missile launch is straining diplomatic options, watch this report from NBC News: