Thinking the Unthinkable With North Korea


The United States and South Korean militaries taking part in drills at a multiple exercise range in Pocheon, South Korea, in April. CreditSeung-il Ryu/NurPhoto, via Getty Images

President Trump has promised the world that he will “solve” the North Korean nuclear crisis before the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, can screw a nuclear weapon onto a missile that can reach San Francisco or Los Angeles, a grim feat that experts say he is on track to achieve during Mr. Trump’s first term. The president is right to point out that his predecessors succeeded only at kicking this problem down the road. But Mr. Trump hasn’t said how he plans to solve the problem.

History suggests that as Mr. Trump comes to understand the risks involved, he will settle for constraints on North Korean testing to stop it from being able to reach the American homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile. President Xi Jinping of China pointed him in that direction at the Mar-a-Lago summit meeting in April, proposing a freeze on United States military activity on the Korean Peninsula in exchange for suspending North Korea’s long-range missile tests.

An approach that requires the United States to accept what it longed deemed “unacceptable” will strike many people in Washington as irresponsible. Is United States national security really strengthened if a 33-year-old dictator with a record of executing his enemies and defying red lines is left with an arsenal of 20 warheads and missiles that can deliver nuclear strikes against Seoul and Tokyo? It would be a hard pill to swallow, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged in South Korea two months ago, when he noted that such a freeze was “premature” since it does not readily solve anything.

But as Mr. Trump and Mr. Tillerson review the choices that Mao Zedong made in 1950, and John F. Kennedy made in 1962, they will come to appreciate the risks of cornering an adversary — and find the clearest clues for a deal that Washington and Beijing could support.


U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Carl Vinson about 30 kilometers south of Tsushima island in a north-northeasterly direction headed toward waters off the Korean Peninsula as part of moves to exert pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear and missile development programs. CreditThe Asahi Shimbun, via Getty Images

Start with Mao. In the Korean War, American policy makers assumed that if the United States went to the defense of South Korea, a China exhausted by years of civil war would not respond. They were wrong. Mao did not hesitate to unleash a huge counterattack on a nuclear superpower when United States soldiers in Korea neared the Chinese border. Overwhelmed, Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s men retreated.

Could that happen again? Maybe. The United States intelligence community believes that American military strikes against North Korea would almost certainly trigger retaliation that would kill up to a million citizens in Seoul. The South Korean government would respond with a full-scale attack on the North. The United States is committed to support South Korea. But would Mr. Xi ever allow the Korean Peninsula to be reunified by a government allied with the United States?

And history is working against us. A Harvard study I led found 16 cases over the past 500 years when a rising power threatened to displace a ruling power. In 12 of them, the outcome was war. Today, as an unstoppable rising China rivals an immovable reigning United States, this dynamic — which I call Thucydides’s Trap — amplifies risks.

What we see unfolding now is a Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion. In the most dangerous moment in recorded history, to prevent the Soviet Union from placing nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba, John F. Kennedy was prepared to take what he confessed was a one-in-three chance of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. What risk will Mr. Trump run to prevent North Korea acquiring the ability to strike the United States?

As Kennedy approached the final hour in which he would have to attack, risking nuclear war, or acquiesce to a Soviet nuclear presence in America’s backyard, both he and Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, began to examine previously unthinkable options. In the popular American narrative, Khrushchev capitulated. But we now know that both sides blinked. Kennedy agreed secretly to remove American missiles from Turkey, an option he and his advisers had earlier rejected because of its impact on NATO — and because he would look weak.

Kennedy’s central lesson from the crisis still offers wise counsel for Mr. Trump. “Above all,” Kennedy said, “while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.”

At Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Xi reportedly urged Mr. Trump to accept “suspension for suspension.” For Mr. Kim’s freeze on additional ICBM tests, the United States could postpone or modify military exercises in the region. Some people in Mr. Xi’s circle have even proposed that the United States and China consider a new East Asian security architecture.

Indeed, they note that America’s presence in South Korea is an accident of history. Had North Korea not attacked the South in 1950, the United States would never have intervened. So if China were to assume responsibility for removing the Kim regime, denuclearizing the country, and reunifying the peninsula under a government in Seoul friendly to Beijing, would the United States remove all its bases from the South and end its military alliance?

For most American presidents, the idea would be a nonstarter. But Mr. Trump is nothing if not original. Will the necessity of avoiding nuclear war, in this case, become again the mother of invention?

There’s an Asia nuclear crisis going on, and the US still doesn’t have ambassadors in China, South Korea or Japan

  • North Korea’s nuclear threat is a priority for the Trump administration.
  • But the U.S. has not filled key diplomatic positions in the region, including allied nations.
  • Analysts say the lack of personnel makes it impossible for the U.S. to act.

2 Hours Ago

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un watches a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army (KPA).

KCNA | Reuters
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un watches a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People’s Army (KPA).

The United States has failed to put in place enough senior diplomats to tackle the North Korean nuclear threat and trade issues in East Asia, international policy experts told an audience this week.

“You’d think we’re going into a crisis with North Korea, and there’s no ambassador in Seoul, in Tokyo, in Beijing or an assistant secretary for East Asia. You wonder, beyond the tweets and what the White House says, how actually the work of the government is going to get done,” said Vali Nasr, dean of the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a former senior advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan under Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

The U.S. State Department website says that those major ambassadorships are “vacant” — as are the top U.S. diplomatic posts to India and Australia — even as smaller countries such as the Philippines have ambassadors in place.

In a statement to CNBC, the State Department pointed out that it has officials “serving in acting capacities” in those countries. The department deferred to the White House on senior nomination questions.

The White House did not respond to a CNBC request for comment.

“You worry that even if things are calm, you’re just one step away from a very big crisis,” Nasr said. He was speaking Wednesday evening at the Asia Society in New York.

“You cannot take on these challenges without having a government where you have people in place. It’s not possible.”-Thomas Donilon, former U.S. national security advisor

President Donald Trump has rocked longstanding U.S. policy in Asia, leaving allies in the region less certain about their relationship with the United States, while China takes advantage of the vacuum to grow as a regional power and take over as the arbiter of international standards. Against that backdrop, North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un has threatened various countries with nuclear attack.

“You cannot take on these challenges without having a government where you have people in place. It’s not possible,” Thomas Donilon, former U.S. national security advisor, said at the same event. He led U.S. efforts to impose existing sanctions on Iran.

“It is not possible to do that without dozens and dozens of diplomats around the world who are working every day on these things,” Donilon said. “So the staffing is a really big issue.”

The U.S. Senate confirmed Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative late Thursday, more than 100 days after Trump’s inauguration.

Moon Jae-in takes 41.1% of the vote in S Korea election  Wednesday, 10 May 2017 | 1:23 AM ET | 02:06

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad awaits his confirmation as ambassador to China and only got out of the GOP-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week. Members of the committee have blamed incomplete paperwork for the delays.

Private equity executive William Hagerty wasn’t nominated as ambassador to Japan until March.

No record of a nominee for ambassador to South Korea appears on the White House website.

Of 557 key executive branch positions that must be confirmed by the Senate, the Trump administration has failed to produce a nominee for 460, according to a running tally from the Washington Post.

Of about 200 ambassadorial posts, 77 remain “vacant,” according to a May 10 document from the State Department.

Tillerson ‘bears some responsibility’

Analysts pointed out that the only confirmed State Department official is Secretary Rex Tillerson himself.

Tillerson “definitely bears some responsibility” for not nominating people for some key posts, Nasr told CNBC on Friday. He said he could not think of a previous case in which so many important posts had not been filled by the first few months of a new president.

“It does not signify competence or seriousness,” Nasr said.

To be sure, the heads of state themselves still dictate the tone of international relations overall.

“Ambassadors in Asia haven’t played a [major] role for quite some time,” Charles Freeman III, managing director at consulting firm Bower Group Asia and former assistant U.S. trade representative for China affairs.

Bower said the National Security Council and White House have played a greater role in Asian affairs, though he noted that good leadership at embassies is necessary for continuity in foreign policy.

Trump has a dangerous disability

Trump’s puzzling way of handling interviews

Opinion writer May 3 at 7:36 PM

It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about President Trump’s inability to do either. This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence.

In February, acknowledging Black History Month, Trump said that “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” Because Trump is syntactically challenged, it was possible and tempting to see this not as a historical howler about a man who died 122 years ago, but as just another of Trump’s verbal fender benders, this one involving verb tenses.

Now, however, he has instructed us that Andrew Jackson was angry about the Civil War that began 16 years after Jackson’s death. Having, let us fancifully imagine, considered and found unconvincing William Seward’s 1858 judgment that the approaching Civil War was “an irrepressible conflict,” Trump says:

Library shelves groan beneath the weight of books asking questions about that war’s origins, so who, one wonders, are these “people” who don’t ask the questions that Trump evidently thinks have occurred to him uniquely? Presumably they are not the astute “lot of,” or at least “some,” people Trump referred to when speaking about his February address to a joint session of Congress: “A lot of people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber.” Which demotes Winston Churchill, among many others.

What is most alarming (and mortifying to the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated) is not that Trump has entered his eighth decade unscathed by even elementary knowledge about the nation’s history. As this column has said before, the problem isn’t that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.

The United States is rightly worried that a strange and callow leader controls North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. North Korea should reciprocate this worry. Yes, a 70-year-old can be callow if he speaks as sophomorically as Trump did when explaining his solution to Middle Eastern terrorism: “I would bomb the s— out of them. . . . I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left.”

As a candidate, Trump did not know what the nuclear triad is. Asked about it, he said: “We have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ballgame.” Invited to elaborate, he said: “I think — I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.” Someone Trump deemed fit to be a spokesman for him appeared on television to put a tasty dressing on her employer’s word salad: “What good does it do to have a good nuclear triad if you’re afraid to use it?” To which a retired Army colonel appearing on the same program replied with amazed asperity: “The point of the nuclear triad is to be afraid to use the damn thing.”

As president-elect, Trump did not know the pedigree and importance of the one-China policy. About such things he can be, if he is willing to be, tutored. It is, however, too late to rectify this defect: He lacks what T.S. Eliot called a sense “not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence.” His fathomless lack of interest in America’s path to the present and his limitless gullibility leave him susceptible to being blown about by gusts of factoids that cling like lint to a disorderly mind.

Americans have placed vast military power at the discretion of this mind, a presidential discretion that is largely immune to restraint by the Madisonian system of institutional checks and balances. So, it is up to the public to quarantine this presidency by insistently communicating to its elected representatives a steady, rational fear of this man whose combination of impulsivity and credulity render him uniquely unfit to take the nation into a military conflict.

North Korea Warns Region Is ‘Close to Nuclear War’ Amid U.S. Drills

North Korea Warns Region Is ‘Close to Nuclear War’ Amid U.S. Drills

North Korea’s state-controlled media warned Tuesday that America’s “military provocations” risked triggering nuclear conflict — with one newspaper claiming Kim Jong Un‘s regime was “waiting for the moment it will reduce the whole of the U.S. mainland to ruins.”

The latest threat from North Korean state media came hours after the two U.S. B-1B Lancer bombers flew training drills with the South Korean and Japanese air forces in another show of strength.

Despite a flurry of recent missile tests, North Korea has not demonstrated that it’s capable of hitting the United States mainland with a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM.

Many experts predict the reclusive country is some way off its goal.

The North still maintains it has the technology to do so, however, and on Tuesday an anchor on North Korea’s state-controlled KRT broadcaster issued a new warning to Washington.

“Due to the U.S. military provocations that are becoming more explicit day by day, the situation in the Korean peninsula … is being driven to a point close to nuclear war,” he said, according to a translation by Reuters.

U.S. Pushing Korean Peninsula to Brink of Nuclear War, N. Korea Says 0:40

Fiery rhetoric by North Korea against the United States and its allies is not uncommon, but the latest salvo comes at a time of particularly heightened tensions following a tougher line taken by Trump and his team.

The president said last week that a “major, major conflict” conflict with North Korea was possible, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has suggested that military action is “on the table.”

There have also been mixed messages from Trump, however, with the president telling Bloomberg News on Monday that he would be “honored” to meet the North Korean dictator. He also called Kim “a pretty smart cookie” in a CBS interview.

Image: Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Ed Jones / AFP – Getty Images

Kim is a leader who runs one of the world’s most repressive regimes, where almost all aspects of civil society are severely restricted and tens of thousands of people are enslaved in labor camps that the United Nations has likened to Nazi Germany.

America has long since sought to put pressure on North Korea to stop its missile and nuclear tests that contravene United Nations sanctions — something Kim has ramped up under his leadership.

Meanwhile, CIA Director Mike Pompeo was visiting South Korea on Tuesday as part of a three-day visit to reaffirm America’s commitment to its regional ally.

The North continually rails against military exercises involving the U.S. and the South, alleging they are a training exercise for an invasion of their territory. On Tuesday, KRT claimed the American warplanes conducted nuclear bombing drills against several major targets.

‘Reckless Action of the War Maniacs’

The U.S.-South Korea drills included an aircraft carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, which Trump dispatched to the region’s waters.

An opinion piece in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Tuesday called the drills “a reckless action of the war maniacs aimed at an extremely dangerous nuclear war.”

The article was headlined: “Nuclear War Will Bring Nothing but Doom to U.S.”

Related: N. Korea Speeds Up Missile Tests to Send Message to Trump

The newspaper — which, like all North Korean media, is strictly controlled by the state — warned that the North Korean army would “make such gigantic carriers something useless,” apparently referring to their destruction.

It said America’s “vast territory is exposed to our preemptive nuclear strike” and that its army was “waiting for the moment it will reduce the whole of the U.S. mainland to ruins with its absolute weaponry of justice.”

Trump on North Korea threat: ‘Nobody’s safe’ 12:17

The newspaper added: “If the U.S. shows any slight sign of provocation, just the inter-continental ballistic rockets displayed in the April military parade will fly into the U.S. The reckless nuclear war provocation by the Trump administration will bring it nothing but the fall of the American empire.”

It also highlighted that “the U.S. mainland is the final target of [North Korea’s] strategic rockets tipped with powerful nuclear warheads.”

America’s allies weren’t spared the threatening rhetoric. The paper said that “South Korea will be submerged in a sea of fire” and “Japan will be reduced to ashes.”

Seoul, the South Korean capital, is just 25 miles from the North Korean border. Experts have warned that if America launches military action against the North it may result in a devastating, retaliatory strike against the city and its 10 million people.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry urged all sides to “lower the temperature” and “resume contact and dialogue as soon as possible.”

Geng Shuang added that Trump’s comments suggesting he would be open to meeting with Kim were a “positive signal.”

China is North Korea’s sole ally in the region and many experts see Beijing as key to solving the Korean impasse.

North Korea ‘tests ballistic missile’ amid reports Pyongyang stating war ‘imminent’
An undated file photo made available by the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state news agency of North Korea, on 07 March 2017, shows four projectiles during a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army (KPA) at an undisclosed location
An undated file photo made available by the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state news agency of North Korea, on 07 March 2017, shows four projectiles during a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) at an undisclosed location CREDIT: KCNA
  • North Korea test-fires ballistic missile
  • Trump says North Korea ‘disrespected the wishes of China’
  • Reports Pyongyang saying war ‘imminent’
  • North Korea: attempts to get rid of nuclear weapons ‘wild dream’
  • North Korea could develop a missile capable of reaching the US warns Homeland Security Secretary


North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile in the early hours of Saturday morning, reports in South Korea said, amid rising military tensions with the US.

The missile, launched from a region north of the capital, Pyongyang, appeared to have blown up a few seconds into flight, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.

US officials said the missile did not leave North Korean territory and was probably a medium-range missile known as a KN-17.

It was the second failed test of a ballistic missile this month and came amid a flurry of rhetoric from North Korea, warning of “imminent” war against the US.

“North Korea fired an unidentified missile from a site in the vicinity of Bukchang in Pyeongannam-do (South Pyeongan Province) early this morning,” Yonhap reported, quoting a statement issued by South Korea’s military. “It is estimated to have failed.”

Donald Trump, the US president, said that North Korea “disrespected the wishes of China” with the missile test.

North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!

On Friday, Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, warned that failure to curb North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes could lead to “catastrophic consequences”.

He called for a greater enforcement of UN sanctions against North Korea and requested the help of the rest of the world in pressuring North Korea to step back from its military threats.

North Korea’s military arsenal


China said it was not only up to Beijing to solve the North Korean problem.

“The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister said.

This image made from video of a still image broadcast in a news bulletin by North Korea's KRT on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, shows what was said to be a "Combined Fire Demonstration" held to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the North Korean army, in Wonsan, North Korea
This image made from video of a still image broadcast in a news bulletin by North Korea’s KRT on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, shows what was said to be a “Combined Fire Demonstration” held to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the North Korean army, in Wonsan, North Korea CREDIT: KRT VIA AP VIDEO

North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador responded by stating US efforts to get rid of his country’s nuclear weapons through military threats and sanctions were “a wild dream”.

Mr Trump told Reuters in an interview on Thursday that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

An undated photograph released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 26 April 2017 shows the combined fire demonstration of the services of the Korean People's Army in celebration of its 85th founding anniversary, at an undisclosed location in North Korea
An undated photograph released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 26 April 2017 shows the combined fire demonstration of the services of the Korean People’s Army in celebration of its 85th founding anniversary, at an undisclosed location in North Korea CREDIT: KCNA

The top US military commander in the Pacific warned earlier this week that North Korea could strike American soil.

“I don’t share your confidence that North Korea is not going to attack either South Korea, or Japan, or the United States … once they have the capability,” Admiral Harry Harris, who heads the US Pacific Command, told Congress.

He was defending the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile defence system by the US in South Korea.

The move was “in response to North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threat”, a US military statement said, amid concerns that Pyongyang was planning its sixth nuclear test since 2006.

A military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army (KPA) is seen in this handout photo by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency
A military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) is seen in this handout photo by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency CREDIT: KCNA



UN Security Council united in demanding North Korea surrenders nuclear weapons

France’s U.N. ambassador says the U.N. Security Council is “mobilized” and unanimous on the need to denuclearise North Korea.

Francois Delattre said at the United Nations after North Korea’s apparently failed missile launch Saturday that while there were “nuances” on policy to be worked out among council members, there is unanimity on the need for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

France's Ambassador to the United Nations Francois Delattre 
France’s Ambassador to the United Nations Francois Delattre  CREDIT: TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP

North Korea fired the missile hours after the Security Council held a ministerial meeting on Pyongyang’s escalating weapons program. North Korean officials boycotted the meeting, which was chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Delattre says the council must be “very firm” implementing sanctions, adopting new ones if necessary and denouncing North Korea’s human rights record.


South Korea presidential front-runner says North Korea’s missile launch futile

 The front-runner in South Korea’s presidential election sees North Korea’s latest attempted missile launch on Saturday as “an exercise in futility”, his spokesman said.

“We urge again the Kim Jong Un regime to immediately stop reckless provocative acts and choose the path to cooperate with the international community including giving up its nuclear programme,” Park Kwang-on, a spokesman for Moon Jae-in, said in a statement, referring to the North Korean leader.

Moon Jae-In,

“That is a way to save itself, not a way to self-destruct,” Park said.

North Korea test-fired a missile earlier on Saturday, which disintegrated after several minutes into the flight, U.S. and South Korean officials said.

South Korea’s presidential election is on May 9.


North Korea ‘could develop a missile capable of reaching the US’ warns Homeland Security Secretary

John Kelly, the Homeland Security Secretary, has given a stark assessment of the threat posed by Pyongyang.

Previous administrations had tried and failed to persuade the North Koreans to behave more responsible, Mr Kelly he told CNN. “They tried and failed, I don’t blame them. It has fallen under this president that they will have a workable missile that can reach the United States, though not all of it.”

John Kelly, secretary of U.S. Homeland Security
John Kelly, secretary of U.S. Homeland Security CREDIT: SUSANA GONZALEZ/BLOOMBERG

The impact of such a missile would be catastrophic, he added.

Mr Kelly did not think the latest test was a response to Donald Trump’s most recent remarks.

“They are not fast enough to put a missile launch together just on what the president said last night,” he said.

“The missile technology is pretty complicated and they have some pretty good scientists, but they don’t have the people like we have or in the same numbers.”


U.S. ‘could speed up North Korea sanctions in response to missile test’

Quoting an American official,  Reuters is reporting that the  Trump administration could respond to North Korea’s latest failed missile test by speeding up its plans for new U.S. sanctions against Pyongyang, including possible measures against specific North Korean and Chinese entities.

With North Korea acting in defiance of pressure from the United States and North Korea’s main ally, China, Washington could also conduct new naval drills and deploy more ships and aircraft in the region as a show of force, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It’s possible that something could be sped up,” the official said of the potential for imposing a limited package of targeted sanctions on North Korea. “Something that’s ready to go could be taken from the larger package and expedited.”

The source said the ballistic missile launch was the kind of “provocation” that had been anticipated ahead of South Korea’s May 9 election, and President Donald Trump could use the test-firing to further press China to do more to rein in North Korea.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the missile fired from a region north of Pyongyang was probably a medium-range missile known as a KN-17 and appears to have broken up within minutes of taking off.

Should North Korea test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile as it has threatened, Washington would consider it a more dangerous milestone, the administration official told Reuters, suggesting it would draw a much tougher U.S. response.

The Trump administration is especially worried about Pyongyang’s work to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States. Washington is also watching closely for the possibility of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test.


Japan protests North Korea’s latest missile test

Japan has protested the latest missile launch by North Korea.

Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the ballistic missile firing would be “a clear violation of UN security council resolutions.”

He added that Japan “cannot accept repeated provocation by North Korea” and had “lodged a strong protest against North Korea.”

Japan has become increasingly concerned in recent weeks about the possibility of a North Korean missile attack targeting Japan or US forces stationed in Japan.


Trump: North Korea ‘disrespected China’

Donald Trump has said that North Korea “disrespected the wishes of China” with the missile test.


Ballistic missile did not leave N.Korean territory -U.S. military

The US military has said it tracked the ballistic missile launch but the missile did not leave North Korean territory and did not pose a threat to North America.

Commander Dave Benham, a spokesman for US Pacific Command, said the missile launch took place at 10:33 a.m. Hawaii time (2033 GMT) from near the Pukchang airfield.

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the missile was probably a medium-range missile known as a KN-17 and appears to have broken up within minutes of taking off.


‘Fiery destruction of the White House’

North Korea video promises fiery destruction for the White House




North Korea’s nuclear history



US official says North Korean test was likely of a medium-range ballistic missile

US official says North Korean test was likely of a medium-range ballistic missile; it broke up minutes after launch, AP reports.


Missile test ‘appears to have failed’

Yonhap news agency said the missile appeared to have blown up a few seconds into flight.

US President Donald Trump told Reuters in an interview on Thursday a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

Trump praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping for “trying very hard” to rein in Pyongyang.


‘Unidentified missile’ fired by North Korea

“North Korea fired an unidentified missile from a site in the vicinity of Bukchang in Pyeongannam-do (South Pyeongan Province) early this morning,” Yonhap reported, quoting a statement issued by South Korea’s military.


‘We have to bring Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table’

Mark Warner, a Democrat senator and vice chairman of the intelligence committee, has told CNN;

“This is where we have got when we have two bellicose, belligerent leaders, both ratcheting up the rhetoric. I believe Japan, South Korea and the allies have to stand up strong. We have to bring Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table, not to his knees.”


‘Catastrophic consequences’

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned earlier on Friday that failure to curb North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs could lead to ‘catastrophic consequences,’ while China and Russia rebuked Washington’s threat of military force, Reuters reports.

The showdown in a meeting of the UN Security Council on North Korea highlighted the diplomatic challenges of resolving tensions over Pyongyang, with the Trump administration aggressively pressing Beijing to rein in its ally, and China and Russia pushing back against Washington’s rhetoric.

Rex Tillerson: US looking to China for help with North Korea


Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the 15-member council it was not only up to China to solve the North Korean problem.

“The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” Wang told the council in blunt remarks that Tillerson later rebuffed.


North Korea test fires ballistic missile, according to reports

Hello and welcome to our live coverage as North Korea test-fires a ballistic missile from a region north of its capital, Pyongyang, Yonhap news agency reported citing South Korea’s military.

There were no immediate details about the missile or its flight, Yonhap said.

Trump on North Korea: Tactic? ‘Madman Theory’? Or Just Mixed Messages?


President Trump’s negotiating strategy has often involved the taking of an extreme position, in the hope that the other actor in a test of wills will be thrown off enough to move in his direction.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — It was only a few hours after his secretary of state cracked open the door on Thursday to negotiating with the North Koreans that President Trump stepped in with exactly the kind of martial-sounding threats against the country that the White House, until now, had carefully avoided.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” he said to Reuters during a round of his 100-days-in-office commemorations. “Absolutely.”

Viewed in the most charitable light, Mr. Trump was, in his own nondiplomatic way, building pressure to force the North into a freeze of its nuclear and missile tests, the first step toward resuming the kind of negotiations that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson had spoken of earlier in the day. Or, perhaps, he was engaging in a bit of the “madman theory” that he and many of his aides reportedly admire about President Richard M. Nixon, who tried to convince Ho Chi Minh, the wily North Vietnamese leader, that he might be crazy enough to drop “the bomb” if they could not find a way to end the Vietnam War.

But the most likely explanation is that Mr. Trump, who until now has largely avoided taking the bait that the North Korean propaganda machine churns out with its own warnings of imminent war, simply reverted to an old habit: sounding as tough as the other guy. The problem is that it clashes with the message his administration has been sending out in recent days that no pre-emptive strikes are planned and that there is plenty of time and space for diplomacy. Mr. Trump’s aides talk of an “integrated strategy” of escalating military and economic pressure to force diplomatic engagement.

The objective, Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., who heads the United States Pacific Command, told Congress this week, is to “bring Kim Jong-un to his senses, not to his knees,” a reference to the insecure if absolute leader of North Korea.

That also seemed to be Mr. Tillerson’s message. In an interview with NPR, he tried to sound reassuring, saying: “We do not seek a collapse of the regime. We do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula. We seek a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.” He even raised at least the possibility of direct talks.

Mr. Trump missed an opportunity to reinforce that effort to reassure the North Koreans that the United States is not looking to topple their leader. Instead, his message could be taken as the opposite.

Mr. Trump’s negotiating strategy has often involved the taking of an extreme position, hoping that the other actor in a test of wills will be thrown off enough to move in his direction. That is one thing when it means threatening to pull out of Nafta, the gambit Mr. Trump floated, then retreated from, this week. But it can be a far riskier bet when exchanging signals with Mr. Kim, who has survived so far — like his father and grandfather before him — by employing a similar playbook of extreme rhetoric, often followed by acts of violence.

So far, Mr. Trump has directed one operation to bolster his claim that he is perfectly willing to use force in an unpredictable manner: his decision a month ago to conduct an intensive, brief attack on a Syrian air base where American intelligence agencies say the Syrian government launched a chemical weapons attack on its own people. It had no follow-up.

But for North Korea, lashing out to send a message is an art form, practiced since the days when Mr. Kim’s grandfather ordered the seizure of an American ship, the Pueblo, in 1968, followed by the shooting down of an American reconnaissance plane, killing 31. Then, seven years ago, came the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel — most likely by a North Korean torpedo, though the country denies it — that took 46 lives.

The young Mr. Kim, who took over the following year after his father’s death, has worked to burnish his own madman credentials. He is believed to have ordered the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment that wiped out the company’s computer systems in 2014 and the killing of his half brother in Malaysia this year, part of a sustained campaign to eliminate potential rivals. More than a few have been executed with antiaircraft guns, just to make a point.

The fear is that small acts and mutual threats of war can lead to miscalculation. Only hours before Mr. Trump spoke, the North released a propaganda video showing the White House shattering apart in what looked like a nuclear blast. No one takes those videos seriously, but they indicate a state of mind in which every action has to have a reaction.

“That’s what I worry about the most,” Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, said recently. “Rapid escalation.”

Past presidents have recognized the risk. It is notable that the shooting down of the American spy plane in Nixon’s time, one of the largest losses of Americans in a Cold War military attack, did not result in retaliation, in part for fear of rekindling the Korean War.

Behind the scenes in the Trump White House, officials are just beginning to debate how to react to potential North Korean acts. One of the most active debates is over what to do if the North attempts a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Should it be destroyed on the launchpad? Should the United States try to intercept it in midflight, with all the risks of escalation if that succeeds, and the risks of embarrassment if it fails?

Such questions are still being debated, as recently as during a meeting at the White House on Thursday, just as Mr. Trump and Mr. Tillerson were sending what sounded like uncoordinated messages.

Transcript: NPR Interviews Secretary Of State Rex Tillerson


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the George C. Marshall room at the State Department on Thursday.

Ariel Zambelich/NPR

In his first interview with NPR, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has a wide-ranging interview with Morning Edition’s Steve Inskeep.

Steve Inskeep: I want to begin with North Korea. We heard when you said, “the era of strategic patience is over,” so we know what your policy is not. Is there a word or phrase you can give us to say what your approach to North Korea is?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: Yes, our approach to North Korea is to have them change their posture towards any future talks.

And I think when we say the era of strategic patience is over — in the past I think we have always negotiated our way to the negotiating table. Now when they act up, we would negotiate our way to get them to come to the table, and then decide what we’re going to give them to have them behave. We don’t have the running room left to do that now, given how far advanced their program has become. So this is an approach that is to put pressure on them through implementation of all the sanctions, as well as other diplomatic pressures, and calling on others to cause them to change their view of what will really allow them to achieve the security that they say they seek.

Do you intend to direct talks with North Korea? Is that your goal?

Obviously, that would be the way we would like to solve this. But North Korea has to decide they’re ready to talk to us about the right agenda — and the right agenda is not simply stopping where they are for a few more months or a few more years and then resuming things. That’s been the agenda for the last 20 years.

Well help me understand what success is from your point of view. What does the goal have to be?

Well our goal is the same as that of China, which is a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

No nuclear weapons for North Korea?

A denuclearized Korean Peninsula. It’s very clear: That’s China’s stated policy, it has been our stated policy, it’s been the stated policy of our allies in the region. And I would quickly add, you know, we did our part — we took our nuclear weapons out of the Korean Peninsula. It’s time for North Korea to take their weapons out as well.

Is that a realistic goal?

It is our goal. It is our only goal.

And would you go so far as to say that is an absolute goal? I’m thinking of the way that President Obama during the nuclear negotiations with Iran said Iran will not have a nuclear weapon, period. Are you prepared to say: North Korea will not end this process with nuclear weapons, period?

We must have a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. That is our goal, pure and simple.

Nothing less?

Nothing less.

Regardless of the methods?

I’m not sure what you mean when you say regardless of the methods…


China warns situation with North Korea at ‘critical point’

By Michelle Nichols and Lesley Wroughton | UNITED NATIONS

China warned on Friday that the situation with North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs is at a “critical point” and said dialogue and negotiations are the only “practical” way to end tensions.

Speaking at the United Nations before a Security Council meeting on North Korea – to be chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi pledged that Beijing would fully implement all U.N. sanctions on North Korea.

“Due to the recent efforts by the DPRK (North Korea) to accelerate missile and nuclear development, China agrees to the international community to step up efforts of non-proliferation,” Wang told reporters.

“A peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and negotiations represents the only right choice that is practical and viable,” he said.

Tillerson, in his first visit to the United Nations as secretary of state, will press the 15-member Security Council to further isolate North Korea by swiftly imposing stronger sanctions in the event of further provocations by Pyongyang, including a long-range missile launch or sixth nuclear test.

The ministerial meeting comes after U.S. President Donald Trump told Reuters on Thursday that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The United States, which is president of the Security Council for April, urged members – in a note outlining Friday’s meeting – to “show their resolve to respond to further provocations with significant new measures.”

Diplomats say further provocations are considered a nuclear test or long-range missile launch.

The Trump administration is focusing its North Korea strategy on tougher economic sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo, a global ban on its airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang, U.S. officials told Reuters earlier this month.

The United States has been urging China to use its status as North Korea’s only major ally to help rein in Pyongyang.

Washington is also stepping up pressure that began under the Obama administration against Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia, which have diplomatic and financial links to Pyongyang, to downgrade or cut diplomatic ties with North Korea.


U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due to brief the Security Council at Friday’s meeting, which will include foreign ministers from China, Britain and Japan. Tillerson met with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts before the council meeting and will meet Wang afterwards.

China has long promoted dialogue to resolve the “Korean nuclear issue,” and the United States says it is open to talks, but the two countries disagree over the sequence.

“The U.S. require (North Korea) to take some actual action to curtail their nuclear program, which could then be followed by talks, and the Chinese position is talks first, action later,” said a senior U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Since 2006, North Korea has been subject to U.N. sanctions aimed at impeding the development of its nuclear and missile programs. The council has strengthened sanctions following each of North Korea’s five nuclear tests.

Traditionally the United States and China have negotiated new sanctions before involving remaining council members. It took the council three months to act after the last nuclear test, in September, and diplomats said Washington appears to be laying the groundwork with China for faster negotiations next time.

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Frances Kerry)

Sanders warns of possible nuclear war with North Korea


President Trump’s Thursday assertion that a “major, major conflict” between the U.S. and North is possible is essentially a warning of a potential nuclear war, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Friday.

“When you’re talking about a ‘major, major conflict,’ what you’re talking about is a nuclear war,” Sanders said on CBS’s “This Morning.” “Obviously, I think the goal now is to work as strongly as we can with China.”

“China is, I think, receives about 80 percent of the exports from North Korea. They are in a position to tighten the screws on North Korea and tell them they cannot continue their missile program or their nuclear program.”

In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Trump warned of the possibility of a “major, major conflict” with North Korea, saying that, while his administration would pursue a peaceful solution to ongoing tensions with the country, it would be “very difficult.”

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump said.

“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he added.

Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have escalated in recent weeks amid increased concerns over the reclusive regime’s advancing weapons program. Earlier this month, the U.S. announced that it would send a Navy strike group into the West Pacific near the Korean Peninsula in an attempt to deter Pyongyang’s aggression.

But North Korea quickly condemned the move as an aggression and threatened a nuclear strike if provoked. The ongoing back and forth between the U.S. and North Korea has put allies in the region on high alert.

North Korea tension: China ‘seriously concerned’ about nuclear threats

Missile at military parade in Pyongyang (North Korean state news agency KCNA) - 16 AprilImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionNorth Korea showed off military hardware at a parade in honour of the anniversary of founding father Kim Il-sung’s birth

China says it is seriously concerned about North Korean nuclear development, in the wake of a BBC interview with a top official from the North.

North Korea’s vice-foreign minister told the BBC Pyongyang would continue to test missiles and would launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike if it thought the US was planning an attack.

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China opposed words or actions that could further raise tension.

North Korea-US tension is growing.

There has been heated rhetoric from both sides in recent days. US Vice-President Mike Pence, who has been visiting the region, warned the North not to test Washington and said the US “era of strategic patience” with Pyongyang was over.

The BBC’s Stephen McDonell in Beijing says the Chinese government appears to be becoming increasingly frustrated with North Korea, its traditional ally.

Media captionThe BBC’s John Sudworth asks North Korea’s vice-foreign minister what message he has for Donald Trump

“I have noted the recent report,” Mr Lu said, referring to the BBC interview.

“China expresses serious concern with recent trends about North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.

“China is unswerving in its commitment to realising the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, maintaining the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula, and continue to solve matters through dialogue and negotiations.”

Mr Lu added that tension was already high in the region before the latest comments from Pyongyang.

The North held a show of military might in a parade over the weekend and tested another missile on Sunday, which the Pentagon said blew up almost immediately after launch.

Media captionMike Pence calls North Korea ‘most dangerous threat’

Pyongyang said it may test missiles on a weekly basis, and warned of “all-out war” if the US takes military action.

“If the US is planning a military attack against us, we will react with a nuclear pre-emptive strike by our own style and method,” Vice-Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol told the BBC on Monday.

Timeline of recent tensions

Later Mr Pence vowed to “defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response”.

The US Navy’s Carl Vinson strike group – consisting of an aircraft carrier and other warships – is on its way to the Western Pacific, Pacific Command said on Tuesday, following an order from President Donald Trump last week.

The USS Carl Vinson (left) and other warships in the Indian Ocean. Photo: 14 April 2017Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe USS Carl Vinson (left) and other warships were in the Indian Ocean over the weekend

It has emerged that when the original announcement of the group’s movement was made it was travelling in the opposite direction.

It is not clear whether this was a deliberate deception, a change of plan or simple miscommunication, the BBC’s Korea correspondent Stephen Evans says.