US fights for global push on North Korea

This article is more than 12 months old

Nations divided over response to latest missile test

WASHINGTON The US is battling to maintain international solidarity in the face of North Korea's nuclear threat after Russia warned that sanctions have failed and China side-stepped talk of an oil embargo.

The US-led efforts to isolate Mr Kim Jong Un, cripple his economy and force him to negotiate his disarmament failed to prevent Wednesday's test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching US cities.

Washington urged tough action at an emergency meeting of the Security Council, and US President Donald Trump complained the North's neighbour China has failed to convince Mr Kim to back down.

"The Chinese Envoy, who just returned from North Korea, seems to have had no impact on Little Rocket Man," Mr Trump said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who metGerman Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Thursday, was more cautious in his response to China but did press for tougher action to cut off the North's fuel supplies.

"I think the Chinese are doing a lot. We do think they could do more with the oil and we are really asking them to please restrain more of the oil, not cut it off completely," he said - a move that would deal a crippling blow to Pyongyang's economy.

His call came after the US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley issued a warning to the Security Council.

"The dictator of North Korea made a choice that brings the world closer to war, not farther from it," she said.

"If war comes, make no mistake: The North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed."

But her call for nations to "cut off all ties with North Korea" was rejected by Moscow, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying: "We have repeatedly stated that the pressure of sanctions has been exhausted."

The North said the weapon could land anywhere in the continental US, and France said Europe was in striking distance.

However, South Korea's Unification Ministry cast doubt yesterday on the North's claim it had mastered the technology to ensure a missile survives re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

The Security Council met on Wednesday at the request of the US, Japan and South Korea to consider next steps.

Mr Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to use "all available levers" to press the North. But China's Foreign Ministry sidestepped questions about the US call for an oil embargo.

The state-run Global Times paper said in an editorial yesterday China "will not impose any additional unilateral punishments on North Korea", and an oil embargo "might even trigger a humanitarian crisis".- AFP