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Ex-US Ambassador to South Korea: Conflict with North Korea has to be on the table

UN condemnation has followed Pyongyang's claim that it "successfully" test-fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. This latest activity may be a game changer, a former US envoy to Seoul tells DW's Brent Goff.

Watch video 07:05

North Korea: Interview with US diplomat Christopher Hill

Military conflict between the United States and North Korea has to be on the table following Pyongyang's latest missile tests, Christopher Hill, the former US ambassador to South Korea, told DW's Brent Goff on Monday's edition of "The Day."

"If they set up a nuclear weapon, I don't think we have much of a choice but to consider a very serious military response to that," Hill said.

The US diplomat's comments came after North Korea confirmed that it had "successfully" test-fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, prompting the UN Security Council on Monday to strongly condemn the move and threaten "further significant measures."

Watch video 02:11

North Korea missile test prompts UN meeting

Warming US-China relations? 

Hill lauded US President Donald Trump for shifting his approach to the Asia-Pacific region. Last week, Trump reached out to Chinese President Xi Jinping and said he respected the country's One China policy. Then, over the weekend, he hosted Japan's prime minister at his Florida residence. Shinzo Abe's state visit coincided with North Korea's test launch.

Hill, who currently serves as the dean at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, called on the Trump administration to show more "quantity and quality" in its negotiations with Beijing. "It is not enough to say 'China, you need to sort this,' because - as we just saw from the Chinese spokesman - that becomes their line about us," Hill said.

During his election campaign, Trump vowed to introduce a high tariff on Chinese imports in a bid to boost the competitiveness of US-made goods on the domestic market. Trump also accused China of manipulating its currency, keeping the Chinese renminbi artificially low and ensuring that Chinese goods remain competitive in international markets.

"It's important to overcome strategic distress," Hill said, adding that, while bitter relations between the two economic super powers dated back to before Trump, antagonisms had certainly accelerated under the current US President.

Watch video 03:31

North Korea millisle test - Interview Eric Ballbach, FU Berlin

Hill said China would need to address its links to North Korea's regime. Last year, it was revealed that the US Department of Justice is reportedly preparing legal action against Chinese industrial conglomerate Liaoning Hongxiang. The firm, which is headed by a Communist Party cadre, is suspected of trading millions of dollars worth of heavy imports with Pyongyang, helping the North finance its nuclear program.

"If we work together by establishing some patterns of cooperation and showing what we're interested in, then I think we can do a better job with China," Hill said."If we have all these elements together, we can create the circumstances where North Korea understands it cannot go forward with a nuclear weapon."

Watch video 02:40

China braces itself for Trump era

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