WASHINGTON — The Trump administration threatened new sanctions on North Korea on Wednesday after the reclusive government shattered 2 1/2 months of relative quiet with its most powerful weapon test yet, an intercontinental ballistic missile that some observers believe could reach Washington and the entire U.S. Eastern Seaboard.
President Donald Trump tweeted that he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping about Pyongyang’s “provocative actions,” and he vowed that “additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!” Trump’s top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, said the U.S. could target financial institutions doing business with the North.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Wednesday at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council that the missile launch “brings us closer” to a war that the U.S. doesn’t seek.
She said that if war comes as a result of further acts of “aggression” like the latest launch, “make no mistake the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”
The fresh deliberations about new forms of punishment for North Korea came after its government said it successfully fired a “significantly more” powerful, nuclear-capable ICBM it called the Hwasong-15. Outside governments and analysts concurred the North had made a jump in missile capability.
A resumption of Pyongyang’s torrid testing pace in pursuit of a viable arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles that can hit the U.S. mainland had been widely expected. But the power of the missile and suddenness of the test jolted the Korean Peninsula and Washington. The launch at 3:17 a.m. Wednesday local time — early Tuesday afternoon in the U.S. capital — indicated an effort to perfect the element of surprise and obtain maximum attention in the U.S.
In a government statement released through state media, North Korea said the Hwasong-15, the “greatest ICBM,” could be armed with a “super-large heavy nuclear warhead” and is capable of striking the “whole mainland” of the U.S. The North said the missile reached a height of 4,475 kilometres (2,780 miles) and travelled 950 kilometres (590 miles) before accurately hitting a sea target, similar to the flight data announced by South Korea’s military.
After the launch, it said leader Kim Jong Un “declared with pride” that his country has achieved its goal of becoming a “rocket power.”