Critics say six-party talks format, launched by George Bush in 2003, was unwieldy with divisions exploited by Pyongyang

All sides in the North Korea crisis agree there are no good options. Sanctions, the most complex ever designed by the UN, are of limited effect unless an oil embargo is imposed – in which case the whole country slides into chaos, something China opposes. A military assault is likely to lead to reprisals and mass casualties that will dwarf Hiroshima.

Related: Xi Jinping says a dark shadow looms over the world after years of peace

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