Prez Trump seeks options to eliminate N Korea nuke threat
As a US strike group led by an aircraft carrier steamed toward the Korean peninsula on Sunday, a senior official said US President Donald Trump has asked to be provided with a range of options for eliminating the North Korean nuclear threat.
The US naval move will certainly raise tensions in the region and comes hard on the heels of a US cruise missile strike on Syria that was widely interpreted as putting Pyongyang on warning over its refusal to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
North Korea denounced Thursday's attack as an act of "intolerable aggression" and one that justified "a million times over" the North's push toward a credible nuclear deterrent.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted in an interviewed broadcast Sunday that the United States does not intend to try to remove the regime of Kim Jong-Un.
"That is not our objective and so the whole reasons underlying the development of a nuclear program in North Korea are simply not credible," Tillerson told the ABC program "This Week." He said the United States expects China, the main ally of North Korea, to do more to rein in the regime in Pyongyang.
"They have indicated that they will and I think we need to allow them time to take actions," Tillerson said.
US National Security Adviser HR McMaster insisted, however, that in the meantime it is "prudent" to send the strike group to the Korean peninsula, criticizing North Korea as a rogue, nuclear-armed nation engaged in provocative behavior.
"Presidents before and President Trump agreed that it is unacceptable, that what must happen is the denuclearization of the peninsula," McMaster told Fox News.
"The president has asked them to be prepared to give us a full range of options to remove that threat," he added, apparently referring to Trump's advisers.
Pyongyang is on a quest to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five nuclear tests, two of them last year.
Expert satellite imagery analysis suggests it could well be preparing for a sixth, with US intelligence officials warning that Pyongyang could be less than two years away from developing the means to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.
North Korea on Wednesday fired a medium-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan ahead of a US-China summit.
The isolated North is barred under UN resolutions from any use of ballistic missile technology.
In February, the North simultaneously fired four ballistic missiles off its east coast, three of which fell provocatively close to Japan, in what it said was a drill for an attack on US bases in the neighbouring Asian country.
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