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Seoul raises possibility of war in Korea as missile crisis builds

19 Mai 2017

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, said on ABC television that the United States has been working well with China and raised the possibility that new sanctions against North Korea could include oil imports.

North Korea launched its tenth missile this year Sunday.

Pyongyang carried out two atomic tests past year, and has accelerated its missile launch programme, despite tough United Nations sanctions aimed at denying leader Kim Jong-un the hard currency needed to fund his weapons ambitions. This is not play time. The North ignored global condemnation of its missile test, which demonstrated some disturbing advances in long-range missile technology, and insisted it would "conduct ICBM tests anytime and anywhere, in accordance with the decisions made by our central leadership".

Following the launch, one of the most vocal voices in the chorus of those denouncing North Korea and its leader Kin Jong-un was that of the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who went as far as to suggest that Kim was "in a state of paranoia" and vowed that Washington would proceed with "tightening the screws" on the pariah state.

Earlier today, newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in said there was a "high possibility" of conflict with North Korea.

Traditionally, the United States and China have negotiated new sanctions before involving remaining council members.

"We have worked well with China", Haley said. "We have not seen anything from them in the past week but we are encouraging them to continue moving forward". Pyongyang hailed as a success the launch that was aimed at testing its missiles' ability to carry a heavy warhead, a measure it says it needs to counter United States hostility.

Among the possible measures could be an oil embargo, trade bans and targeted sanctions on North Korean individuals and companies, but these hinge on China's willingness to apply such measures.

But a senior North Korean diplomat has said Pyongyang is also open to having talks with Washington under the right conditions.

The agreement for the leaders to meet in late June followed a meeting in Seoul between Chung Eui-yong, Moon's foreign policy adviser, and Matt Pottinger, the Asia director on Trump's National Security Council, Moon's spokesman Yoon Young-chan said.

The Council has imposed six sets of sanctions against the North since 2006.

For its part, North Korea declared the test was to see if the missile could carry a large nuclear warhead, including a re-entry vehicle.

Trump has called for an immediate halt to North Korea's missile and nuclear tests and U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood said on Tuesday that China's leverage was key and Beijing could do more.

Although the two countries are allies, they are divided over the issue of whether South Korea has to pay for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) anti-missile system deployed in the south of the country. It again demanded that Pyongyang conduct no further nuclear or ballistic missile tests.

Observers believe that the successful launch is a significant technological jump, with the test-fire apparently flying higher and for a longer period than any other such previous missile. He also added that South was ready for any attempt of strike from North and was capable of striking back should Pyongyang attack.

South Korea's Yonhap News notes that Moon has promised to increase South Korea's defense budget from the current 2.4 percent of GDP to 3 percent.

Seoul raises possibility of war in Korea as missile crisis builds