Donald Trump Has History of Contradictory Statements on Nuclear Weapons

Campaign Flashback: Trump’s 2016 Nuclear Weapons Stance1:45

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. drastically increase its nuclear arsenal follows a presidential campaign in which he made a number of contradictory statements about weapons of mass destruction.

As a candidate, he called nuclear proliferation the “single biggest threat” facing the world while also suggesting Japan and South Korea should obtain nuclear weapons as a defense. During one debate he ruled out a “first strike” but in the same breath said he would not take anything off the table.

Related: Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military

His desire to increase the country’s nuclear capabilities nearly tenfold, voiced during a meeting with top national security leaders in July, came as North Korea continued to escalate nuclear tensions with more weapons tests.

As a candidate and as president, Trump has been fairly consistent in calling for the modernization of the country’s nuclear weapons.

Here’s how Trump has talked about nuclear weapons since launching his presidential run and entering the White House.

Trump Claims to Have Ordered the Modernization of the Country’s Nuclear Weapons

My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before….

…Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!

As a Candidate, He Criticized the Country’s Nuclear Arsenal as Outdated

The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes

Trump Has Given A Variety of Answers on Using Nuclear Weapons

  • “I would certainly not do first strike. I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table.” — Presidential DebateSept. 26, 2016
  • “I don’t want to rule out anything. I will be the last to use nuclear weapons. It’s a horror to use nuclear weapons. The power of weaponry today is the single greatest problem that our world has.” — TODAY, April 28, 2016
  • “I will do everything within my power never to be in a position where we have to use nuclear power because that’s a whole different ballgame.” — Interview with The New York Times, July 21, 2016
  • “Nuclear should be off the table, but would there be a time when it would be used? Possibly. Possibly. … I would be the last one to use the nuclear weapons. Because that’s sort of like the end of the ballgame. … I’m not going to use nukes, but I’m not taking any cards off the table.” — Town Hall with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, March 30, 2016
  • “Well, it is an absolute last stance. And, you know, I use the word unpredictable. You want to be unpredictable.” — Interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Jan. 3, 2016
  • “It is highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely that I would ever be using them.” —Interview with GQ, Nov. 23, 2015

He Has Called Nuclear Proliferation the “Greatest Threat” Facing the U.S.

  • “Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation.” — Interview with The New York Times, March 26, 2016
  • “Our single biggest problem we have is nuclear weapons, you know, countries with them.” — Town Hall on Fox News, March 3, 2016
  • “The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he’s saying. The biggest problem we have is nuclear — nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That’s in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.” — Republican Presidential Debate, Dec. 15, 2015

But He Has Also Suggested Japan, South Korea and Even Saudi Arabia Should Have Them

  • As far as Japan and other countries, we are being ripped off by everybody in the — we’re defending other countries. We are spending a fortune doing it. They have the bargain of the century. All I said is, we have to renegotiate these agreements, because our country cannot afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, South Korea and many other places. We cannot continue to afford — she took that as saying nuclear weapons.” — Presidential Debate, Oct. 19, 2016

CNN’s WOLF BLITZER: But — but you’re ready to let Japan and South Korea become nuclear powers?

TRUMP: I am prepared to — if they’re not going to take care of us properly, we cannot afford to be the military and the police for the world. We are, right now, the police for the entire world. We are policing the entire world.

You know, when people look at our military and they say, “Oh, wow, that’s fantastic,” they have many, many times — you know, we spend many times what any other country spends on the military. But it’s not really for us. We’re defending other countries.

So all I’m saying is this: They have to pay.

And you know what? I’m prepared to walk, and if they have to defend themselves against North Korea, where you have a maniac over there, in my opinion, if they don’t — if they don’t take care of us properly, if they don’t respect us enough to take care of us properly, then you know what’s going to have to happen, Wolf?

It’s very simple. They’re going to have to defend themselves.

— Interview on CNN, May, 4, 2016

CNN’s ANDERSON COOPER: So you have no problem with Japan and South Korea having nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself, we have …

COOPER: Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: Saudi Arabia, absolutely.

COOPER: You would be fine with them having nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: No, not nuclear weapons, but they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.

Here’s the thing, with Japan, they have to pay us or we have to let them protect themselves.

COOPER: So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?

TRUMP: Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen anyway. It’s going to happen anyway. It’s only a question of time. They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely. But you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them.

Now, wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons? And they do have them. They absolutely have them. They can’t — they have no carrier system yet but they will very soon.

Wouldn’t you rather have Japan, perhaps, they’re over there, they’re very close, they’re very fearful of North Korea, and we’re supposed to protect.

— CNN Town Hall, March 29, 2016

Trump Even Said He Would Not Take Using a Nuclear Bomb in Europe Off the Table

  • “Europe is a big place. I’m not going to take cards off the table. We have nuclear capability. Now, our capability is going down rapidly because of what we’re doing. It’s in bad shape. The equipment is not properly maintained. There are all lot of talk about that. And that’s a bad thing, not a good thing. The last person to use nuclear would be Donald Trump. That’s the way I feel. I think it is a horrible thing. The thought of it is horrible. But I don’t want to take anything off the table. We have to negotiate. There will be times maybe when we’re going to be in a very deep, very difficult, very horrible negotiation. The last person — I’m not going to take it off the table. And I said it yesterday. And I stay with it.” — Interview on Fox News, March 31, 2016
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In Iran and North Korea, Trump Is Playing With Nuclear Fire

Iranian protesters hold banners and shout slogans during an Anti-US protest after Donald Trump's UN speech against Iran, at the Tehran University campus in Tehran, Iran on September 22, 2017. (Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)Iranian protesters hold banners and shout slogans during a protest after Donald Trump’s UN speech against Iran, at the Tehran University campus in Tehran, Iran, on September 22, 2017. (Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which spearheaded a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The significance of this award cannot be underestimated.

Donald Trump’s bombastic and frightening threats against North Korea and Iran may portend a catastrophic attack that could impact the entire world.

The US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing 210,000 people. During the week following the bombings, thousands of survivors experienced a unique combination of symptoms, Susan Southard wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

Their hair fell out in large clumps, their wounds secreted extreme amounts of pus, and their gums swelled and bled. Purple spots appeared on their bodies, signs of hemorrhaging beneath the skin. Infections ravaged their internal organs. Within a few days of the onset of symptoms, many people lost consciousness, mumbled deliriously and died in extreme pain; others languished for weeks before either dying or slowly recovering.

In the face of Trump’s nuclear threats, the danger the world faces is immeasurable.

Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

On July 7, more than 120 countries approved the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which requires ratifying countries “never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The treaty also prohibits the transfer of, use of, or threat to use nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

Fifty-three countries officially signed the treaty, and three have already ratified it, which makes them parties to the accord. Ninety days after 50 countries ratify it, the treaty will enter into force.

However, the five original nuclear-armed countries — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — boycotted the treaty negotiations and the voting. North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India, which also have nuclear weapons, refrained from participating in the final vote as well. In October 2016, during negotiations, North Korea had voted for the treaty.

The State Department issued a statement saying, “The United States does not support and will not sign the [treaty].”

Trump Threatens to Blow Up the Iran Deal

Meanwhile, Trump is moving the world closer to nuclear war, threatening North Korea with destruction and attempting to blow up the nuclear deal with Iran. The day before the new treaty was concluded, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacked; that amounted to a threat to commit genocide.

Peace prize historian Oeivind Stenersen said the Nobel committee intended “to send a signal to North Korea and the US that they need to go into negotiations. The prize is also coded to support the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.”

The Iran deal is embodied in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It rescinded the punishing US and international sanctions on Iran, amounting to billions of dollars of relief. In return, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program.

Under the US Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the president must determine every 90 days whether Iran remains in compliance with the JCPOA and whether it still serves US interests. The next 90-day period ends on October 15. Trump will reportedly refuse to certify that Iran is compliant with the agreement on October 12, in spite of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency’s finding that Iran is in compliance.

If Trump refuses to certify that Iran is compliant with the JCPOA or determines the agreement is not in the national interest, Congress will then have 60 days to act. If Congress reimposes sanctions, it would likely cause the JCPOA to unravel. Iran would then proceed with a program to develop nuclear weapons.

The White House has signaled that Trump will urge Congress not to reimpose sanctions, but rather hopes Congress will pass new legislation beyond the scope of the original deal. “If Congress complies, such unilateral action to change a multilateral agreement will effective kill it,” Wendy Sherman, former under secretary of state for political affairs and US lead negotiator for the JCPOA, wrote in The New York Times.

Moreover, if Trump’s actions scuttle the Iran deal, it will send a dangerous message to North Korea that the United States cannot be trusted to abide by its multilateral agreements.

Both Trump’s threats against North Korea and his undermining of the JCPOA could lead to nuclear war.

US Violates Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires nuclear states to eliminate their nuclear weapons and non-nuclear states to refrain from acquiring them. In 2005, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told the Institute for Public Accuracy, “The US government is not adhering to Article VI of the NPT and we show no signs of planning to adhere to its requirements to move forward with the elimination — not reduction, but elimination — of nuclear weapons.”

In 1996, the International Court of Justice stated in an advisory opinion, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” But the nuclear powers have ignored that decision.

And in spite of UN Security Council Resolution 687, which established a weapons-of mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East, Israel maintains a formidable nuclear arsenal.

“The nuclear weapons states, governed by political realists, basically have no trust in law or morality when it comes to national security,” international law expert Richard Falk wrote, “but base their faith in the hyper-rationality of destructive military power, which in the nuclear age is expressed in the arcane idiom of deterrence, an idea more transparently known in the Cold War Era as Mutually Assured Destruction (or MAD!!).”

Indeed, Trump is planning a $1 trillion rebuilding of the US nuclear weapons program.

Only the US Has Used Nuclear Weapons

The United States is the only country ever to use nuclear weapons. On the day of the Hiroshima bombing, 19-year-old Shinji Mikamo was on the roof of his house helping his father prepare it for demolition when he saw a huge fireball coming at him. He heard a deafening explosion and felt a searing pain throughout his body. It felt as if boiling water had been poured over him. His chest and right arm were totally burned. Pieces of his flesh fell from his body like ragged clothing. The pain was unbearable. Shinji was three-quarters of a mile from the epicenter of the bomb. He survived, but most of his family perished.

Shinji’s daughter, Dr. Akiko Mikamo, author of Rising From the Ashes: A True Story of Survival and Forgiveness, told a Veterans for Peace Convention that 99 percent of those who were outdoors at the time of the blast died immediately or within 48 hours.

This should serve as a cautionary note to Trump — and Congress — that there is no trifling with nuclear weapons.

“The Calm Before the Storm”

Yet during a photo opportunity he staged with military leaders after meeting with them to discuss North Korea and Iran, Trump issued an ominous warning:

“You guys know what this represents? … Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

What storm?

“You’ll find out.”

Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, told The Hill that Trump’s decertification of the Iran deal “will trigger a process that very likely will lead to the collapse of the deal.”

Parsi said on Democracy Now!, “The buzz here is that there’s going to be a very significant ramping up, an escalation, in the region against Iran, potentially including shooting down Iranian airplanes, sinking Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf, targeting Iranian troops or Iranian-allied troops in Iraq and in Syria.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are reportedly counseling Trump to certify that Iran is complying with the JCPOA.

But Trump has consistently criticized the Iran deal, probably because it was concluded on Barack Obama’s watch and Israel is dead set against it.

In any event, Trump is playing with fire — nuclear fire — in both North Korea and Iran. We must pressure the White House and Congress members alike, and hope that cooler heads prevail. The stakes are unbearably high.

Here’s what could happen if North Korea detonates a hydrogen bomb

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/north-korean-hydrogen-nuclear-1.4303136

Razed cities. Loss of life. Contaminated fishing stocks. Crippled satellite networks.

Should the nuclear crisis between the United States and North Korea escalate beyond hurling test missiles and insults like “madman” and “dotard,” the list of possible effects is a long and frightening one.

Whether North Korea were to simply test a nuclear warhead or aim one at a target like the U.S. territory of Guam — as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has threatened — there would be consequences for both people and the environment.

It’s impossible to predict precisely the effects of a North Korean nuclear blast because so much depends on the type, size and method and elevation of the detonation, says Danny Lam, a Calgary-based defence analyst with a PhD in environmental engineering.

But using as a guide the size of the nuclear test North Korea conducted Sept. 3 — estimated at 250 kilotonnes — some idea of the scope of the damage can be estimated.

“These are not toys,” says Lam, who recently testified before the House of Commons defence committee convened to discuss North Korean aggression. “These are big massive weapons that generate massive effects. These are big city busters.”

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho has said the country will perform an atmospheric test of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean, after claiming a successful underground test of a hydrogen bomb in early September. Hydrogen bombs have a far larger yield than traditional weapons.

But it’s not known if the nation has the technology to make a bomb small enough to fit on a missile. Its missile testing in the Pacific has sent unarmed missiles into the Earth’s atmosphere, but some seemed to have a range that could reach the West Coast of the U.S.

Nuclear fallout zone

Should Kim make good on his threat to target Guam with a nuclear bomb the size of the Sept. 3 test, it would generate a fireball covering an area of 1.6 square kilometres and result in close to 100 per cent loss of life within six square kilometres, Lam says. Most residential buildings within 26 square kilometres would collapse, and prevailing winds would carry residual radioactive material about 270 kilometres northeast of the island.

NORTHKOREA-MISSILES/STATEMENT

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has pledged to continue his weapons program, sending a message to the UN that he will explode an a hydrogen bomb somewhere in the Pacific. (KCNA/Reuters)

In the 1950s, a series of nuclear tests in Bikini Atoll, part of the Pacific’s Marshall Islands, were much bigger than North Korea’s most recent test. But they rendered the whole area unlivable due to contaminated soil and water that made farming and fishing dangerous. Eventually all residents had to be relocated and they have not returned.

For context, it’s important to know that the world has already seen testing of nuclear weapons far bigger than what North Korea is known to have, says Lam, and it hasn’t caused widespread radiation sickness or environmental devastation beyond the blast area.

“If they launched the warhead, we can safely say that it be real bad for any persons nearby … but it is probably not a big deal in terms of radiation release except for the local area.”

An atmospheric nuclear test would be far more dangerous than detonations in controlled underground environments, because of the force of the blast and unrestrained release of radioactive materials that could spread out over large areas. Such a launch would potentially endanger aircraft and ships because it’s highly unlikely the North would give prior warnings or send naval vessels to the area to control sea traffic.

Lee Choon Geun, a missile expert from South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, says missile tests can easily go wrong, and the consequences of failure could be terrifying if the missile is armed with a nuclear weapon.

If a misfire comes close to Japan, that could trigger retaliation from Washington, he told Reuters.

Electromagnetic pulse

Much more threatening to the broader world is the potential damage from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) triggered by an atmospheric nuclear blast, says Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security in the U.S.

EMP is a burst of electromagnetic energy that destroys or damages satellite networks.

If North Korea was to detonate a certain kind of EMP-emitting bomb at high altitude, the low-earth orbit satellites would be destroyed or damaged, says Pry. “And they are vital to our ability to defend South Korea; they’re vital to our economy.”

“Even the GPS systems in automobiles, airplanes depend on these satellites. Our communications, both commercial and military, depend on these satellites,” says Pry, who has served on several congressional committees on EMP and other aspects of defense.

That means, not only would your cellphone network be down at home, military who normally perform high-tech targeted missions wouldn’t have the satellite data they rely upon to do so.

Without those space systems, the U.S. and its allies would move backward to an industrial-era military forced to counter threats like those from North Korea the old-fashioned way — through sheer numbers. “We’d be worse off, because we don’t train for that kind of war and they do.”

There’s a reason that the comprehensive nuclear-test ban treaty forbids this kind of high atmosphere tests, says Lam.

“We haven’t had this type of horror really since [the Second World War] and we’d much prefer we never see it again.”

Trump vs. Kim: Political theater or prelude to apocalypse?

, Detroit Free Press ColumnistPublished 6:00 a.m. ET Sept. 24, 2017 | Updated 11:35 a.m. ET Sept. 24, 2017

They hurl insults at each other like sweaty commuters consumed by road rage. The rest of us look on in confusion, unsure whether we are watching meaningless political theater or the realization of some apocalyptic biblical prophecy.

Kim Jong Un calls Donald Trump  “mentally deranged.” Trump responds that Kim is “obviously a madman.”

Practically everyone suspects that each man has a point. What we know for sure is that both control nuclear arsenals capable of wreaking destruction beyond anyone’s comprehension.

It has been going on all summer, this surreal spectacle of chest-thumping and name-calling. The prospect that Trump or Kim might actually do the things they have been threatening to do on an almost daily basis is so terrifying that the only response most of us can muster is to joke about it.

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We understand that the sniper perched in the bell tower, the hacker who steals our financial data or the hurricane poised to pulverize a populous city are threats we have to do something about. In each case, there’s a list of actions those in harm’s way can take to make themselves at least a little less vulnerable.

But it’s unclear what ordinary residents of San Francisco, Tokyo, Seoul or Pyongyang could do to protect themselves if Trump or Kim decided to unleash the fire and furythey are so fond of threatening in their tweets and propaganda videos. So we dismiss their bombast as the stuff of fantasy, like a science-fiction movie in which the protagonist travels across time or discovers that his spouse and children are really holograms.

Delusions of survival

For more than half a century, almost everyone with any responsibility for the deployment of nuclear weapons has shared the tacit understanding that their use would obliterate any meaningful distinction between belligerents and bystanders.

Distance and technological ingenuity might afford those at the periphery of a major nuclear exchange some temporary advantage. But in the long run, those privileged bystanders might end up envying those who had been instantly incinerated. (If global warming makes you anxious, then Google “nuclear winter” and learn what happens when climate change occurs so suddenly that no one has time to argue about it.)

What worries those trying to make sense of North Korea’s provocations is the possibility that Kim and his generals are either skeptical of that consensus or simply indifferent to the possibility that any nuclear exchange would end in North Korea’s annihilation.

Colin Powell at U-M:U.S. should ignore North Koreans when they shoot missiles
More: How would a nuclear bomb impact your city? Online tool lets you find out

There is anecdotal evidence to support both of these worrisome hypotheses. Evan Osnos, a veteran foreign correspondent who visited North Korea last month, says he was struck by North Koreans’ widespread conviction that a nuclear showdown with the U.S. would leave their country battered but intact.

“People go out of their way to tell you how comfortable they are with the idea of a nuclear exchange,” Osnos told interviewer Terri Gross in an interview after his return from Pyongyang.

“I had a conversation with a very smart and very alert, knowledgeable America analyst at the Foreign Ministry, a guy named Pak Song Il, whose job it is to analyze the United States, speaks extremely good English. And he said, ‘Look, we understand that a war would be devastating, but we’ve survived devastation twice in our recent history — the Korean War and then the famine of the mid-’90s which killed up to 3 million people.’
“And he said, ‘We would survive again.’

“And he took me down into the subway, which is built a hundred meters underground, twice the depth of the New York subway system, and he said, “This is where we would go in the event of a nuclear strike.’ He showed me the blast doors.”

Bruce Bennett, a Rand Corp. analyst who meets regularly with some of the most senior defectors to escape North Korea, likes to begin briefings with an even scarier anecdote dating to the early 1990s, when Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the current leader and the first in the line of Kims that has ruled the country for decades, asked his most trusted military leaders what he should do if North Korea lost a war with the U.S.

“The North Korean military guys were all smart enough to know that it was a really good time to keep your mouth shut,” Bennett recalls in an overview published in the current edition of the Rand Review. “But his son, Kim Jong Il, the father of the current leader, spoke up and said, ‘If we lose, I will be sure to destroy the Earth. What good is the Earth without North Korea?’ ”

Trump poured gasoline on the paranoia when he asserted that North Korea’s current leader is “on a suicide mission,” suggesting that Kim’s provocations are not only likely to hasten his country’s annihilation but consciously designed to do so. If he’s right, we should probably stop arguing about Obamacare and eat more ice cream.

The confusion is mutual

The generals and analysts advising Trump seem less inclined to take such conspicuous displays of bravado at face value. They are proceeding on the optimistic assumption that Kim and the elite coterie that supports him are as interested in continuing to draw breath as anyone else, but have convinced themselves that the nuclear threat is the surest guarantee of both their country’s physical security and their own political power.

The Trump administration’s grown-ups want to believe they have counterparts in the North Korean intelligence community who are just as quick to discount the U.S. president’s public provocations as they are to dismiss Kim’s. But journalists who’ve visited North Korea say Trump’s tweets leave the Kim regime’s analysts just as puzzled about Washington’s intentions as U.S. strategists are about Pyongyang’s. You needn’t be paranoid to worry that either side’s miscalculation about the other’s motives could prove as dangerous as any overt military act.

When thinking about North Korea drives me to binge-eating, I like to contemplate ways the current crisis could end in something less dramatic than global catastrophe. Here are some of the more plausible ones:

The U.S. might have the capacity to disrupt Pyongyang’s breakneck schedule of tests and missile flights via cyber-measures or infrastructure sabotage that fall short of a conventional military attack. Such measures could covertly discourage Kim without providing a clear pretext for retaliatory action.

But this is a comforting scenario based on little more than conjecture. Bennett and others point out that such a strategy hinges on a combination of technical prowess and reliable intelligence difficult to secure in the world’s most opaque nation.

An ever-tightening vise of economic sanctions might convince North Korean elites and military leaders on whom Kim depends for support to replace his regime with one more eager to find accommodation with its neighbors.

But defectors say Kim’s well-publicized policy of brutality toward those suspected of subversion — the so-called three-generation rule, in which a disloyal official’s children and grandchildren are liable for offenses against the regime — discourages even the mildest dissent.

China might be persuaded to join U.S. allies in the Pacific to support containment measures that make North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons no scarier than, say, Pakistan’s.

But some U.S. analysts believe North Korea wants nuclear weapons not to defend its own territory, but to pursue its dream of reunifying the Korean peninsula.

For all its risks, the last scenario — a dug-in, nuclear-armed regime kept in line by the same threat of mutually assured destruction that deterred the U.S and the Soviet Union from annihilating each other through the Cold War era — may offer the best hedge against a war that leaves unprecedented carnage.

All we can be certain of now is that the well-being of millions on both sides of the Pacific depends on both sides remembering that no one should take their leaders’ public threats very seriously.

Thinking the Unthinkable With North Korea

Photo

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.

Photo

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

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/12/us-still-doenst-have-ambassadors-in-china-south-korea-or-japan.html

  • 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

 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-has-a-dangerous-disability/2017/05/03/56ca6118-2f6b-11e7-9534-00e4656c22aa_story.html?tid=ss_fb&utm_term=.e5adfeca6876

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

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/north-korea/north-korean-warns-region-close-nuclear-war-amid-u-s-n753756

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.

Play
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.”

Play
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’

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/28/north-korea-tests-ballistic-missile-amid-reports-pyongyang-stating/
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

02:01

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

 

3:45am

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.

3:20am

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,
Moon Jae-In, CREDIT: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP

“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.

2:41am

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.”

2:02am

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.

12:51am

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.

12:37am

Trump: North Korea ‘disrespected China’

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

11:46pm

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.

11:45pm

‘Fiery destruction of the White House’

North Korea video promises fiery destruction for the White House

02:25

 

11:42pm

North Korea’s nuclear history

 

11:12pm

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.

10:46pm

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.

10:29pm

‘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.

10:23pm

‘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.”

10:21pm

‘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

00:54

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.

10:18pm

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?

Photo

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.