US says it is ready to use force against North Korea, as Donald Trump questions China's trade relations

US says it is ready to use force against North Korea, as Donald Trump questions China's trade relations

US says it is ready to use force against North Korea, as Donald Trump questions China's trade relations

Updated 6 July 2017, 12:05 AEST

Washington is ready to use force "if we must" to stop North Korea's nuclear missile program, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warns, but says it prefers global diplomatic action against Pyongyang following its test launch of an ICBM.

The United States has warned it was ready to use force "if we must" to stop North Korea's nuclear missile program but said it preferred global diplomatic action against Pyongyang for its test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Key points:

  • US to propose new UN sanctions on North Korea "in the coming days"
  • Analysts say a missile tested by North Korea could put Alaska in range
  • China's trade with North Korea grew 37.4 percent in the first quarter this year

Speaking to the United Nations Security Council, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said North Korea's actions were "quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution" and the US was prepared to defend itself and its allies.

"One of our capabilities lies with our considerable military forces. We will use them if we must, but we prefer not to have to go in that direction," Ms Haley said.

She said the US would propose new UN sanctions on North Korea "in the coming days" and warned Washington was prepared to cut off trade with countries who were doing business with North Korea in violation of UN resolutions.

The Security Council has imposed six rounds of increasingly tough sanctions on North Korea to try to rein in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Ms Haley said much of the burden of enforcing them rests with China, which is responsible for 90 percent of North Korea's trade.

US President Donald Trump earlier chastised China for its continued trade with Pyongyang, tweeting that trade between the two states had grown "40 [per cent] in the first quarter".

Data released in April by Beijing showed China's trade with North Korea grew 37.4 percent in the first quarter this year from the same period in 2016, according to reports in the New York Times and Financial Times.

Mr Trump had expressed optimism after his first meeting with China's President Xi Jinping that the two would work together effectively on North Korea, but in recent days he has increasingly conceded the strategy has not produced fast results.

Even before Pyongyang said on Tuesday it had successfully test-launched an ICBM, Mr Trump recently suggested he was running out of patience with China's modest steps to pressure North Korea and had been considering moving ahead on trade actions.

Analysts said the latest missile could put all of the US state of Alaska in range for the first time.

Mr Trump posted the tweet shortly before leaving for Warsaw, Poland, on his way to a Group of 20 summit in Germany on Friday and Saturday, where he is due to meet with Mr Xi again.

"We're going to do very well," Mr Trump said in response to shouted questions as he left the White House.

North Korea refuses to negotiate on weapons program

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed his nation will "demonstrate its mettle to the US" and never put its weapons programs up for negotiations, a day after successfully testing its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

The hard line suggests that North Korea will conduct more weapons tests until it perfects nuclear-armed missiles capable of striking anywhere in the United States.

Analysts say Mr Kim's Government believes nuclear weapons are key to its survival and could be used to wrest concessions from the United States.

South Korea President Moon Jae-in said the world should look at tougher sanctions against the North and insisted the problem must be solved peacefully.

Speaking in Berlin before the G20 summit, Mr Moon called the test "a big threat and provocation" and that there should be consideration of "more intensive possibilities of sanctions".

AP/Reuters