The US and its allies will look at “all options” if North Korea follows its botched rocket launch with further provocations, a US military commander said yesterday.
“I can assure you that we will work very closely with the allies in this region to monitor the situation in North Korea to prevent future provocations,” Yonhap news agency quoted Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the US Pacific Command, as saying in Seoul.
Asked about a possible strike on the North’s missile base or nuclear test sites, he said: “I don’t think it would be really appropriate for me to comment on how we pursue any future military operations, but I can tell you that with the alliance, we are potentially looking at all options.”
The comment, confirmed by US military authorities, came after the UN Security Council ordered tightened sanctions on the North over its rocket launch and warned of new action if the state stages a nuclear test.
The 15-member council — including China and Pakistan — “strongly condemned” the launch in a statement that highlighted “grave security concerns” in Asia.
The move came as Pyongyang reportedly said it would not allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to examine its nuclear program — a key part of a deal reached with the US in February that would have seen the transfer of thousands of tonnes of much-needed food aid.
At a meeting in New York on Monday, the Security Council ordered new “entities and items” to be added within two weeks to the sanctions committee list created after North Korea staged nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
It also ordered the sanctions committee to revise the individuals and North Korean firms subject to asset freezes under the international measures.
US Ambassador Susan Rice, the council president for this month, said the sanctions committee would draw up a list of new “proliferation sensitive technology” to be banned for transfer to and from North Korea.
The US would propose a “robust package of new designations” to the committee, Rice told reporters. This would include the names of companies linked to North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
Pyongyang said Friday’s rocket launch was intended to place a satellite into orbit, but Western critics said the launch was a thinly veiled ballistic missile test, banned by UN resolutions.
A South Korean official said on Sunday that preparations for a third nuclear test were under way in the northeastern town of Punggye-ri, where the North carried out two previous tests in 2006 and 2009.
At a military parade on Sunday, the North unveiled an apparently new missile longer than its existing Musudan missile.
The Musudan, about 12m long, is believed to have a range of 3,000km to 4,000km, while the new missile appears capable of reaching at least 1,000km farther, Ham Hyeong-pil of Seoul’s Korea Institute for Defense Analyses said.
Christian Lardier, a specialist with the French magazine Air and Cosmos, also said it was a Taepodong-class missile about 20m long and the first stage was identical to that of the rocket fired on Friday.
Of more interest, perhaps, was the vehicle that carried the new missile.
With 16 wheels, it was the biggest yet displayed by the North. That’s important because such vehicles can transport missiles for launch in different sites, giving them an element of mobility that makes them harder to find and destroy. The bigger the vehicle, the larger the missile it can transport.