US prepared to use force on North Korea 'if we must': UN envoy

UNITED NATIONS, July 5 (Reuters) - The United States cautioned on Wednesday it was ready to use force if need be to stop North Korea's nuclear missile program but said it preferred global diplomatic action against Pyongyang for defying world powers by test launching a ballistic missile that could hit Alaska.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council that North Korea's actions were "quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution" and the United States was prepared to defend itself and its allies.

23 PHOTOS
Nikki Haley through the years
See Gallery
Nikki Haley through the years

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, nominee to be the US ambassador to the United Nations, walks through the Capitol to the Senate subway on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on her nomination to be to U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Delegates pose for pictures with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (C) on the floor during the third session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 20, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

U.S.Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley at the Federalist Society, 2016 National Lawyers Convention at the Mayflower Hotel, on November 18, 2016 in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley delivers remarks at the Federalist Society 2016 National Lawyers Convention in Washington, U.S., November 18, 2016.

(REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (L) and U.S. Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio react on stage during a campaign event in Chapin, South Carolina February 17, 2016. Haley announced her endorsement of Rubio for the Republican presidential nomination.

(REUTERS/Chris Keane)

Escorted by staff and security, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (C) moves from one television interview to another across from the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Haley called for the death penalty for Dylann Storm Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina, if he is found guilty of murdering nine people during a prayer meeting at the church Wednesday night. Among the dead is the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the church which, according to the National Park Service, is the oldest black congregation in America south of Baltimore.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, right, greets U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, at the first church service four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week.

(Photo by Paul Zoeller-Pool/Getty Images)

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley speaks to press outside the Emanuel AME Church June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.US police arrested a white high school dropout Thursday suspected of carrying out a gun massacre at one of America's oldest black churches, the latest deadly assault to fuel simmering racial tensions. Authorities detained 21-year-old Dylann Roof, shown wearing the flags of defunct white supremacist regimes in pictures taken from social media, after nine churchgoers were shot dead during a Bible study class on Wednesday evening.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Escorted by staff and security, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (C) moves from one television interview to another across from the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Haley called for the death penalty for Dylann Storm Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina, if he is found guilty of murdering nine people during a prayer meeting at the church Wednesday night. Among the dead is the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the church which, according to the National Park Service, is the oldest black congregation in America south of Baltimore.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley holds a news conference with fellow members of the Republican Governors Association at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce February 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. Republican and Democratic governors met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Monday during the last day of the National Governors Association winter meeting.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley waves on stage during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Today is the first full session of the RNC after the start was delayed due to Tropical Storm Isaac.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Former Florida Governor and potential GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush walks with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley during a visit to Sistercare, a non-profit that aids domestic violence victims and their children on March 17, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Bush announced in December that he 'actively explore' a presidential run in 2016. He is currently on a two day tour through South Carolina and will attend several fundraising events.

(Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)

Nikki Haley applauds the Claflin College Choir after their performance during her inauguration as governor of South Carolina, Wednesday, January 12, 2011, in Columbia, South Carolina.

(Tim Dominick/The State/MCT via Getty Images)

US Republican Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 15, 2013.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Republican candidate for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) smiles along with her husband Michael Haley (L) and daughter Rena (C) as they watch the runoff election results at the Columbia Sheraton on June 22, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina. Haley defeated Rep. Gresham Barrett in a runoff election.

(Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images)

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks to the media prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 12, 2012 in Darlington, South Carolina.

(Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives a birthday cake to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley during a campaign rally at Charleston Area Convention Center on January 20, 2012 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Romney continues to campaign for votes in South Carolina ahead of their primary on January 21.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Nikki Haley speaks to supporters as she comes onto stage during an election party for Republican South Carolina Governor candidate Nikki Haley at the State Museum on June 22, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina. Haley defeated Rep. Gresham Barrett in a runoff election.

(Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images)

Republican candidate for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) smiles along with her husband Michael Haley (L) and daughter Rena (C) as they watch the runoff election results at the Columbia Sheraton on June 22, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina. Haley defeated Rep. Gresham Barrett in a runoff election.

(Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images)

South Carolina State Rep. Nikki Haley from Lexington, pictured on May 14, 2009, is launching a bid to become South Carolina's first female governor.

(Photo by Tim Dominick/The State/MCT via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - JUNE 22: Nikki Haley

(Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call/Getty Images)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"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," Haley said. She urged China, North Korea's only major ally, to do more to rein in Pyongyang.

Taking a major step in its missile program, North Korea on Tuesday test launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that some experts believe has the range to reach the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

North Korea says the missile could carry a large nuclear warhead.

The missile test is a direct challenge to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile.

He has frequently urged China to press the isolated country's leadership to give up its nuclear program.

Haley said the United States would propose new U.N. sanctions on North Korea in coming days and warned that if Russia and China did not support the move, then "we will go our own path."

She did not give details on what sanctions would be proposed, but outlined possible options.

"The international community can cut off the major sources of hard currency to the North Korean regime. We can restrict the flow of oil to their military and their weapons programs. We can increase air and maritime restrictions. We can hold senior regime officials accountable," Haley said.

Diplomats say Beijing has not been fully enforcing existing international sanctions on its neighbor and has resisted tougher measures, such as an oil embargo, bans on the North Korean airline and guest workers, and measures against Chinese banks and other firms doing business with the North.

"Much of the burden of enforcing U.N. sanctions rests with China," Haley said.

The United States might seek to take unilateral action and sanction more Chinese companies that do business with North Korea, especially banks, U.S. officials have said.

China's U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, told the Security Council meeting that the missile launch was a "flagrant violation" of U.N. resolutions and "unacceptable."

"We call on all the parties concerned to exercise restraint, avoid provocative actions and belligerent rhetoric, demonstrate the will for unconditional dialog and work actively together to defuse the tension," Liu said.

TENSIONS WITH U.S.

The United States has remained technically at war with North Korea since the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty and the past six decades have been punctuated by periodic rises in antagonism and rhetoric that have always stopped short of a resumption of active hostilities.

Tensions have risen sharply after North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the ICBM test completed his country's strategic weapons capability that includes atomic and hydrogen bombs, the state KCNA news agency said.

Pyongyang will not negotiate with the United States to give up those weapons until Washington abandons its hostile policy against the North, KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

"He, with a broad smile on his face, told officials, scientists and technicians that the U.S. would be displeased ... as it was given a 'package of gifts' on its 'Independence Day,'" KCNA said, referring to the missile launch on July 4.

Trump and other leaders from the Group of 20 nations meeting in Germany this week are due to discuss steps to rein in North Korea's weapons program, which it has pursued in defiance of Security Council sanctions.

Russia's deputy U.N. envoy said on Wednesday that military force should not be considered against North Korea and called for a halt to the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea.

He also said that attempts to strangle North Korea economically were "unacceptable" and that sanctions would not resolve the issue.

The U.S. military assured Americans that it was capable of defending the United States against a North Korean ICBM.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis noted a successful test last month in which a U.S.-based missile interceptor knocked down a simulated incoming North Korean ICBM.

"So we do have confidence in our ability to defend against the limited threat, the nascent threat that is there," he told reporters. He acknowledged though that previous U.S. missile defense tests had shown "mixed results."

The North Korean launch this week was both earlier and "far more successful than expected," said U.S.-based missile expert John Schilling, a contributor to Washington-based North Korea monitoring project 38 North.

It would now probably only be a year or two before a North Korean ICBM achieved "minimal operational capability," he added.

Schilling said the U.S. national missile defense system was "only minimally operational" and would take more than two years to upgrade to provide more reliable defense.

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton, Phil Stewart and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by James Dalgleish and Peter Cooney)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.