Trump administration officials on Sunday reiterated the United States’ readiness to exercise military options if North Korea keeps up its provocative behavior, speaking after the rogue nation fired another missile over Japan and as world leaders convene for the United Nations General Assembly.
But they stressed that they are still seeking to bring the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to the negotiating table.
“We all know that basically if North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed,” said Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN. “And we all know that. And none of us want that. None of us want war.”
Speaking of Defense Secretary James Mattis, Haley added in her remarks on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “I am perfectly happy taking this over to General Mattis because he has plenty of military options.”
“If our diplomatic efforts fail though, our military option will be the only one left,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
Late last week, North Korea launched another ballistic missile over Japan’s airspace.
President Donald Trump on Sunday morning assigned Kim a nickname in response.
“I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night. Asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!” he tweeted.
Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in discussed North Korea’s nuclear aspirations, agreeing that Pyongyang continues to defy the international community, according to the White House.
Trump and Moon will meet during the General Assembly, a stage of international diplomacy from which Trump is scheduled to deliver a major address on Tuesday. It will be his first appearance before that body.
In addition to North Korea, the president is expected over the course of the week to discuss — both publicly and behind closed doors — how his America First agenda fits into the missions of the UN, an organization that he disparaged during his 2016 campaign as “not a friend of democracy.” He had added, “It’s not a friend to freedom. It’s not a friend even to the United States of America.”
Trump also may face questioning from his fellow global leaders on his criticisms of former President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Paris climate agreement, from which he announced in June that the United States will withdraw.
A Wall Street Journal report on Saturday cited a European Union official saying the Trump administration is seeking to avoid quitting the Paris climate deal, which nearly every nation has signed.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told “Fox News Sunday” that the report is “false.”
The United States cannot leave the Paris pact until 2020.
Asked on ABC News’ “This Week” whether the country would remain signed on if better terms could be renegotiated before then, McMaster said: “If there’s an agreement that benefits the American people, certainly.”
Tillerson was asked the same question on CBS.
“I think under the right conditions, the president said he’s open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue,” Tillerson responded.