Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, amplified the Trump administration’s tough talk toward Kim Jong-un on Monday, telling the U.N. Security Council that North Korea was “begging for war.”
But Haley still advocated diplomacy, urging the council to adopt the toughest possible sanctions against the North Korean regime after the country conducted its latest nuclear test on Saturday.
“To the members of the security council, I must say ‘enough is enough.’ We have taken an incremental approach, and despite the best of intentions, it has not worked,” Haley said, referring to the many rounds of sanctions the body has passed against North Korea since its first nuclear test in 2006.
President Trump responded on Twitter by scolding South Korea for not being tougher and threatening to cut off trade with all countries that have relations with North Korea, an impossible task. Still, his belligerence was a notch down from a previous threat to rain “fire and fury” down on North Korea.
Also on Saturday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis held an unusual press conference in which he said the U.S. wasn’t planning for “total annihilation” of Kim Jong-un’s regime, though it would have “many options to do so.” He threatened a “massive military response” if North Korea threatened Guam or other U.S. interests.
South Korea and Japan have been rattled by its neighbors’ provocations, sparking debate about whether they should adopt more offensive military postures. On Monday, South Korea conducted a simulated attack on North Korea’s nuclear test site.
All the threats and shows of force in the world, though, have not appeared to faze Kim Jong-un in the past, and they seem unlikely to do so now. Kim has shown no sign that he’s been intimidated by Trump’s tough talk, or anyone else’s. And with the dictator’s ultimate motivations something of a mystery, there is clearly no easy answer to his saber-rattling.