World

US vows to force N. Korea back to nuclear talks

Sanctions and diplomatic measures will be used to increase pressure on Pyongyang, say top officials

WASHINGTON: The US pledged on Wednesday to step up sanctions to force North Korea to resume dialogue over its nuclear programme, but said it is not looking to bring leader Kim Jong Un's regime to its knees.

After briefing senators at the White House, top US officials said US President Donald Trump also aims to pursue diplomatic measures with allies and regional partners.

"We are engaging responsible members of the international community to increase pressure on (North Korea) in order to convince the regime to de-escalate and return to the path of dialogue," read a statement from Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

Earlier, Admiral Harry Harris, who heads the Pacific Command, welcomed recent moves by Beijing to defuse soaring tensions between Pyongyang and Washington and suggested that a non-military solution remained the preferred outcome.

"It is critical that we are guided by a strong sense of resolve, both privately and publicly, both diplomatically and militarily," Adm Harris said in Washington.

"All options are on the table. We want to bring Mr Kim to his senses, not to his knees."

During a White House luncheon with UN Security Council ambassadors last Monday, Mr Trump "was very clear that he will be the president who will deal with" North Korea, and that military action remains an option if China fails to rein in Pyongyang, a senior diplomat said.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster told the 15 ambassadors that "there would be a military solution even if they do not want to do it," said the diplomat, who asked not to be named.

The message was: "Ideally we do this peacefully and politically, which means through China. But if that does not work, there is another plan, which is through the US."

Separately, a senior administration official told AFP that the US is considering adding North Korea to its list of countries that are designated as "state sponsors of terrorism".

US troops in South Korea began on Wednesday deploying a contentious anti-missile system in South Korea that has infuriated China.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system is being set up on a former golf course in the southern county of Seongju, and its arrival was met by hundreds of protesters, some of whom clashed with police.

Adm Harris said the Thaad system "will be operational in the coming days".- AFP

North Koreaunited statesSouth Korea