Tension between Washington and Pyongyang appears to be escalating further, with the US president opening accusing the regime of torturing a US national and again hinting at the possibility of military action.
Speaking after the US Treasury announced sanctions on North Korean banks and executives, US President Donald Trump said that North Korea had tortured Otto Warmbier “beyond belief.” The 22-year-old US citizen died in June, days after he was released after being detained in North Korea for 17 months. Although North Korea is suspected of having mistreated the student, this is the first time Trump has openly accused the regime.
US President Donald Trump speaks to the media at the White House on Tuesday. Yonhap
Trump also issued another warning against North Korea, saying that the US military was prepared to strike if the situation escalates.
“If we take that option, it will be devastating, I can tell you that. Devastating,” Trump said, adding that although military action is not the preferred option, the US was “totally prepared”
“If we have to take it, we will.”
North Korea and the US president have been engaging in an escalating war of words and saber rattling for several months. North Korea has ignored international calls to stop its missile and nuclear provocations. Its Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho has accused Trump of declaring war and stated that US aircrafts approaching the country would be attacked.
Trump’s latest threat comes as the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, revealed that it is just a matter of time until Pyongyang develops nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching US territories.
“Whether it’s three months or six months or 18 months, it is soon,” Dunford said at his reappointment hearing Tuesday.
“We ought to conduct ourselves as though it’s just a matter of time and a matter of very short time before North Korea has that capability.”
Dunford, however, said that changes in North Korea’s military posture have not been detected and that a pre-emptive strike against the country would pose significant risks to the US and its allies.
In a separate development, there have been reports that North Korea had attempted to engage US experts.
According to the Washington Post, North Korean government officials have been trying to arrange talks with US analysts with links to the Republican Party.
Citing an unnamed source with close knowledge of the matter, the report said that North Korea was reaching out to US analysts in an attempt to understand Trump’s intentions. According to the report, North Korea’s attempts have so far been unsuccessful and the country does not appear to be hoping to engage the US in dialogue.
Pyongyang has also spurned South Korea’s offers of dialogue. Having declared itself a nuclear power, North Korea has pursued direct talks with the US, refusing to engage South Korea and ignoring Seoul’s offer for talks.
As for the latest US sanctions against North Korea, the US Treasury has blocked properties and interests of eight North Korean banks and 26 executives in the US.
Seoul welcomed the move, saying that the new measures would contribute to the international community’s efforts to denuclearize North Korea.
“The measure highlights the risks of dealing with North Korea and instills awareness (about the risks) in organizations and individuals from third-party countries dealing with North Korea,” an official at Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
“It will contribute to strengthening the international community’s will to stringently carrying out the UN Security Council resolutions.”
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com