EghtesadOnline: President Donald Trump said the U.S. is prepared to use “devastating” military force against North Korea but encouraged the world to work together to end the country’s nuclear program as he imposed new sanctions on the country’s banks.
“We are totally prepared for the second option -- not a preferred option -- but if we take that option it will be devastating I can tell you that,” Trump said during a joint news conference Tuesday at the White House with Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. “For North Korea that is called the military option. If we have to take it we will.”
North Korea’s nuclear weapons threaten “the entire world with unthinkable loss of life” and “all nations must act now to ensure the regime’s complete denuclearization,” Bloomberg quoted Trump as saying.
The U.S. president praised China for placing new restrictions on banking relationships with Pyongyang and enforcing new United Nations sanctions on Kim Jong Un’s regime.
“I applaud China’s recent action to restrict its trade with North Korea,” Trump added. “In particular I applaud China for breaking all banking relationships with North Korea. I want to thank President Xi.”
The U.S. Treasury Department stepped up measures Tuesday in the effort to choke off North Korea from the international financial system by imposing new penalties on banks and individuals linked to the country’s financial networks.
The U.S. designated eight North Korean banks and 26 North Korean nationals who act as representatives for the country’s banks, operating in China, Russia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho escalated tensions on Monday by declaring that his country would be within its rights to shoot down U.S. warplanes flying in international airspace, arguing that Trump’s tough language at the United Nations last week amount to a declaration of war. That startled financial markets, coming just days after the Pentagon sent planes near North Korea’s border.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders called Ri’s assertion “absurd,” saying that the U.S. continues to seek “the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Trump told world leaders in his first address to the United Nations that if Kim’s pursuit of nuclear weapons leads to war, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Belittling the North Korean leader, Trump said, “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
The U.S. president also last week ordered new sanctions on individuals, companies and banks doing business with North Korea. He signed an executive order authorizing the U.S. Treasury to effectively cut off from the U.S. financial system any foreign individual or entity that does business with North Korea, including foreign banks.
Kim, in a statement on state media, called Trump “mentally deranged” and threatened to take the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”
Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that North Korea hasn’t made military moves to match its rhetoric.
“While the political space is clearly very charged right now, we haven’t seen any change in the posture of North Korean forces,” Dunford said. “We watch that very carefully. We clearly posture our forces in the event of a provocation or a conflict.”
Dunford also said it’s best to assume that North Korea already has the capability to hit the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-armed ballistic missile and is likely to overcome any remaining “engineering” issues.