Nikki Haley
Nikki Haley Reuters

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Wednesday that the U.S. is prepared to defend itself from the North Korean threat.

Her comments came as the UN Security Council met to debate the crisis with North Korea, in the wake of North Korea's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

"The United States is prepared to use the full range of our capabilities to defend ourselves and our allies," Haley said, in comments quoted by CBS News.

"One of our capabilities lies with our considerable military forces. We will use them if we must, but we prefer not to have to go in that direction," she stressed.

Haley called the missile test a "destabilizing escalation," and said North Korea's actions are "quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution."

She added that "in the coming days, we will bring before the Security Council a resolution that raises the international response in a way that is proportionate to North Korea's new escalation."

"There are countries that are allowing -- even encouraging -- trade with North Korea in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Such countries would also like to continue their trade arrangements with the United States. That's not going to happen," continued Haley.

Meanwhile, the White House said on Wednesday it was exploring its options to respond to North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile test.

"I think we've been pretty consistent that we're never going to broadcast any next steps. We're exploring those options," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders was quoted by Reuters as having told reporters on Air Force One as President Donald Trump flew to Poland.

North Korea boasted on Tuesday night that it had conducted a test of a newly developed ICBM that can carry a large and heavy nuclear warhead.

North Korea had previously declared that it could test-launch an ICBM “at any time” from any location set by its Kim, but until this week it was unclear whether any of its recent tests have been of an ICBM.