US warns North Korea that diplomatic window is closing

WASHINGTON — The United States warned Wednesday that North Korea was “quickly closing off” the prospect of a diplomatic resolution to its provocations, as the Trump administration launched a government-wide effort to identify options for confronting Pyongyang following its unprecedented intercontinental ballistic missile launch.

President Donald Trump and other senior officials dangled the prospect of punishing countries that trade with North Korea — a threat aimed directly at China, Pyongyang’s biggest benefactor. In a tweet Wednesday morning, Trump questioned why the U.S. should continue what he sees as bad trade deals “with countries that do not help us.”

His message was bolstered at the United Nations, where U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told an emergency meeting of the Security Council that the Trump administration was eyeing penalties against “any country that does business with this outlaw regime.” She also raised the specter of military action, declaring that the U.S. was prepared to use force if necessary.

“Their actions are quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution,” she said of North Korea’s leaders.

Some administration officials are still holding out hope of persuading China to ratchet up economic pressure on Pyongyang, despite Trump’s increasingly pessimistic attitude toward Beijing. Trump, who departed for Europe early Wednesday, is scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany. Thus far, both China and North Korea have proven to be impervious to Trump’s tough talk and threatening tweets. Pyongyang heightened tensions this week with the test of a missile capable of hitting the U.S., a step officials described as a worrisome escalation by an unpredictable regime and perhaps the most pressing threat facing a new U.S. president with little national security experience.

Following the launch, the White House, Treasury Department, State Department, Pentagon and intelligence agencies accelerated discussions on options for responding to Pyongyang’s nuclear pursuits. The talks center in part on the same bucket of ideas prior administrations have considered, including direct diplomatic negotiations and pre-emptive military action.