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(LEAD) Trump 'very angry' at N. Korean missile launch: Reuters interview

2017/02/24 06:55

(ATTN: UPDATES with details, background, byline)

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday he is "very angry" at North Korea's latest missile launch and that bolstering missile defenses for South Korea and Japan is among the options to counter the threat, according to an interview.

Trump also said in the interview with Reuters that talks are under way about "a lot more" options than missile defense. He called the situation surrounding the communist nation "very dangerous," but said China can solve the problem "very easily if they want to."

   He welcomed China's suspension of North Korean coal imports, but said Beijing should put more pressure on Pyongyang.

These remarks show Trump takes the North's nuclear and missile threats seriously, and a main point of his policy on the North would be to pressure Beijing to use enough of its leverage as the North's main food and energy provider to resolve the threats.

"We're very angry," Trump said of the North's Feb. 12 missile launch, according to Reuters.

Accelerating a missile defense system for U.S. allies Japan and South Korea was among many options available, Trump was quoted as saying, and added, "There's talks of a lot more than that."

   "We'll see what happens. But it's a very dangerous situation, and China can end it very quickly in my opinion," he said.

Trump has made a series of remarks about North Korea in recent weeks, especially after Pyongyang carried out the test-firing of a newly developed intermediate range ballistic missile in its first provocative act since Trump came into office last month.

He has called the North "a big, big problem," a "really, really important" subject, and said he will deal with it "very strongly." After summit talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier this month, Trump said that defending against the North's nuclear and missile threat is "a very, very high priority" for him.

But he hasn't elaborated on how he will specifically deal with the problem, other than to pressure China to pressure the North.

During the election campaign, Trump repeatedly said the North is basically China's problem to fix. Since the election, he has also slammed Beijing for failing to exercise enough pressure on the North while engaging in unfair trade and currency practices that hurt American businesses.

He had even raised questions about why the U.S. should adhere to the "one-China" policy of diplomatically recognizing only Beijing, not Taiwan, when China is not helping the U.S. with the North Korea problem, though he later promised to respect the policy.

China is North Korea's last-remaining major ally and a key provider of food and fuel supplies. But it has been reluctant to use its influence over Pyongyang for fears that pushing the regime too hard could result in instability in the North and hurt Chinese national interests.

Beijing has often increased pressure on the North in the past, especially when Pyongyang defied international appeals and carried out nuclear and missile tests and other provocative acts, but it never went as far as to cause real pain to the North.

During the interview, Trump said he would significantly bolster the American nuclear arsenal.

"I am the first one that would like to see everybody -- nobody have nukes, but we're never going to fall behind any country, even if it's a friendly country, we're never going to fall behind on nuclear power," Trump was quoted as saying.

"It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we're going to be at the top of the pack," he said.