Downing Street has restated the UK’s “overwhelming” preference for a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the crisis over nuclear tests by North Korea.
The comments came as the United Nations Security Council prepared for an emergency meeting in New York, with Donald Trump’s administration warning that any threat to the US or its allies would trigger a “massive military response“ against the secretive east Asian state.
The meeting on Monday, at the request of the UK, US, Japan, France and South Korea, comes after Kim Jong Un’s regime carried out its sixth and most powerful test of a nuclear device.
US defence secretary Jim Mattis briefed President Donald Trump about the military options available if the crisis escalated, adding that Washington was capable of launching an “effective and overwhelming” response.
While the US was “not looking to the total annihilation” of North Korea there were “many options to do so”, he said.
According to the Associated Press, when asked by a reporter during a church visit if he would attack the North Mr Trump said: “We’ll see.”
In a series of messages on Twitter, the President branded the tests “hostile and dangerous to the US” and chided South Korea for its “appeasement” of its northern
And in comments apparently designed to put pressure on China, the President said that the US was “considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea”.
At a regular Westminster media briefing on Monday, a Number 10 spokeswoman told reporters: “As the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, and the Foreign Secretary made clear, our focus is on working with partners to increase pressure on North Korea and find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.”
Pressed over whether military action, including a nuclear strike, would be an appropriate response, the spokeswoman said: “We’ve condemned the test in the strongest possible terms. We are calling for tougher action to have North Korea stop this dangerous and destabilising activity.
“Our focus is on how we increase pressure and come to a peaceful solution, including at the UN today… It’s our view in the UK overwhelmingly that peaceful diplomatic means are best.”
Mrs May made clear during her visit to Japan last week that she wanted to look at the possibility of increasing the pace of implementation of sanctions on the Pyongyang regime, said the spokeswoman.
Asked whether this could include an oil blockade, the spokeswoman said: “Our view is that there are further sanctions we could consider.
“There are lots of additional restrictions we could look at on a range of imports and things like restrictions on North Korean workers overseas.
“We expect all of that to be discussed and we will be part of that discussion.”
The spokeswoman said Mrs May believes China, which is Pyongyang’s closest ally and biggest trading partner, could be doing more.
She added: “China has leverage over North Korea and we should be encouraging them to use that leverage to ensure North Korea stop their illegal acts. That is very much the view of the Prime Minister.”