15:49 GMT +323 September 2017
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    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 5, 2017.

    US Puts Military Option on Table for North Korea as Russia, China Urge Restraint

    © REUTERS/ KCNA
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    The United States warned that it might use military force against North Korea or sever trade relations with China if the international community fails to take strong action against Pyongyang, as both Russia and China warned against any further escalation of a tense situation in their backyard.

    US ESCALATES RHETORIC

    US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley insisted on Wednesday that North Korea's actions were "quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution," leaving Washington few options except military force.

    "The United States is prepared to use the full range of our capabilities to defend ourselves and our allies. One of our capabilities lies with our considerable military forces. We will use them if we must," Haley said at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

    The emergency session was called after Pyongyang announced on Tuesday it had successfully launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile, a claim that Washington supports and Moscow disputes.

    Haley said the United States would soon propose new UN sanctions against Pyongyang, warning that if the Security Council did not approve the package, "we will go our own path."

    She also warned that the United States could sever its bilateral trade agreements with countries that continue to do business with North Korea.

    "There are countries that are allowing, even encouraging trade with North Korea in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Such countries would also like to continue their trade arrangements with the United States. That is not going to happen," Haley said, in a clear reference to China.

    RUSSIA AND CHINA URGE CAUTION

    But while the United States demanded that the Security Council ramp up pressure on North Korea, veto-wielding members Russia and China warned against any further escalation.

    Russia's Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Vladimir Safronkov said that Moscow shares the concerns of the international community over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, but cautioned that the military option should be taken off the table.

    "The possibility of taking military measures to resolve the problems of the Korean peninsula should be excluded," Safronkov said.

    Likewise, China's UN envoy Liu Jieyi warned that the crisis could not be resolved through military means.

    "China has always been firmly opposed to chaos and conflict on the peninsula. Military means must not be an option in this regard," Liu said. "We call on all the parties concerned to exercise restraint, avoid provocative actions and belligerent rhetoric, demonstrate the will for unconditional dialogue and work actively together to defuse the tension."

    Safronkov said Russia also would object to any attempts to strangle North Korea with economic sanctions, noting that millions of people in the country are already in humanitarian need.

    The envoy's remarks echoed comments made earlier on Wednesday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who also ruled out both military force and crippling sanctions.

    "Any attempts to justify a military decision, using as a pretext [UN] Security Council resolutions, are unacceptable and will lead to unpredictable consequences in this region, which is adjacent to both the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China. Attempts to economically strangle the DPRK are unacceptable too," Lavrov said.

    Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov also cautioned on Wednesday against any moves that might "lead to a new escalation."

    DISPUTE OVER DISTANCE

    The Security Council meeting saw the US envoy clash with her Russian counterpart over the range of North Korea's missile launch, and whether it constituted an intercontinental ballistic missile.

    Safronkov cautioned that the missile launch required a thorough investigation before any judgments were made.

    "According to information from the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, based on an objective and technology-based monitoring of the situation, it has been established that the parameters and data regarding the target of the missile are in line with the tactical criteria of mid-range ballistic missiles," Safronkov said.

    The Russian envoy's remarks drew a sharp response from the US envoy, who offered to give Moscow proof that the missile was an ICBM.

    "If you [Russia] need any sort of intelligence to let you know that the rest of the world sees it as ICMB, I am happy to provide it," Haley said.

    North Korea has said it successfully launched an intercontinental missile (ICBM) that traveled 580 miles and reached an altitude of 1,740 miles during its 39-minute flight before "accurately hitting the target waters in the open sea" in the Sea of Japan.

    But Russia's Defense Ministry has said its warning system showed that the Hwasong-14 only reached a maximum altitude of 332 miles and flew just 316 miles. That flight distance and altitude correspond to the characteristics of a medium-range ballistic missile, not an ICBM, the ministry has said.

    IMPENDING DIPLOMACY

    As tensions soar over Pyongyang's latest missile test, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov plans to visit the United States for bilateral consultations on North Korea on Thursday and Friday, Russia's press office announced on Wednesday.

    "On July 6-7, planned bilateral consultations on North Korea and the Asia-Pacific Region will be held in Washington, DC with participation of Morgulov," the embassy said.

    Morgulov is expected to meet in Washington with Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Susan Thornton and US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun.

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    Tags:
    diplomacy, ICBM, military action, United Nations, Vladimir Safronkov, Sergei Lavrov, Nikki Haley, Russia, United States, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK)
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