UPDATE : 2017.12.15 FRI 12:24
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Trump vows 'major sanctions' against N. Korea Wednesday

U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday more "major sanctions" will be imposed on North Korea in response to its latest ballistic missile launch.

"Just spoke to President XI JINPING of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!"

North Korea on Tuesday launched what it claimed was a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of carrying a "super-large heavy warhead" to all parts of the U.S. mainland.

This AP file photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump. (Yonhap)

It was Pyongyang's first missile launch since Sept. 15, when it fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan. That followed a series of other provocations, including the regime's first ICBM tests in July and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September.

Last week the U.S. put North Korea back on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a largely symbolic move that was meant to heighten pressure on the regime to give up its nuclear weapons program.

The redesignation prompted a new wave of U.S. sanctions targeting North Korea's economic lifelines, and Trump said there would be more coming over a two-week period to place the country under "the highest level" of sanctions.

Speaking to reporters shortly after the tweet, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. has "a long list" of additional potential sanctions, including some that target financial institutions.

"The Treasury Department will be announcing those when they're ready to roll those out," he said.

Such steps, along with a growing number of U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea, are aimed at depriving the regime of the resources to fund its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Tillerson urged the international community Tuesday to take extra steps to interdict vessels transporting goods to and from North Korea.

"It appears that this will be a new level of maritime interdictions," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing with foreign reporters, noting the details are still being worked out.

China, which is North Korea's only major ally and largest trading partner, is seen as critical to these efforts.

"President Trump emphasized the need for China to use all available levers to convince North Korea to end its provocations and return to the path of denuclearization," the White House said of his phone call with Xi.

Trump also "underscored the determination of the United States to defend ourselves and our allies from the growing threat posed by the North Korean regime," it said in a statement.

Later in the day, the American president addressed a crowd in St. Charles, Missouri, to talk about tax reform. There he reverted to insulting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by calling him "a sick puppy."

Trump and Kim have engaged in an escalating war of words that critics say have exacerbated military tensions between the sides.

Hwi Won  edt@koreapost.com

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