Trump Is a Dangerous Idiot. So Why Are We Pushing Him Toward War?

There’s a big conference going on at the moment in Brussels, where the bipartisan Alliance for Securing Democracy – a group of journos, pols, and intelligence vets from around the West – is holding a conference to discuss how to rebuild the world order in a “time of distrust.”

Speakers like Madeline Albright, Senator Chris Murphy, New York Times correspondent Steven Erlanger, U.S. NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and a host of other CNN panelist types are getting together to discuss how to solve that whole “The people are revolting!” problem Beltway pols have been stumbling over for years now.

The Alliance is part of the German Marshall Fund, which in turn is the group that built Hamilton 68, whose “digital dashboard” blacklist site exists to remind us daily that Russians are lurking behind basically all unorthodox opinions here in the U.S. Such opinions apparently include any desire to not get into a nuclear war.

For instance, according to Hamilton 68, five of the Russian bots’ current six “top trending topics” are “South Korea,” “Kim Jong Un,” “Kim,” “Jong” and “Un.”

This comes in the wake of Thursday evening’s news that Trump met in the White House with South Korean envoys, who in turn announced that Trump would be meeting with Kim Jong Un “by May, to achieve permanent de-nuclearization.”

I stupidly thought it was good news that Trump had been convinced to sit down with Kim Jong Un to negotiate an end to the nuclear standoff, as opposed to letting him continue to egg Kim on to launchvia Freudian name-calling sessions and late-night tweets.

Obviously, whenever Donald Trump is involved in any meeting of import, and particularly a peace negotiation, it would be preferable to have him gagged, perhaps with the straitjacket-and-mask setup they used to allow Hannibal Lecter to speak with Senator Ruth Martin in Silence of the Lambs. Certainly you don’t want him making any sudden movements toward the nuclear football in a meeting with Kim. But talking is for sure better than trading warheads. Right?

Nope. According to David Ignatius, the well-known Washington Postreporter who apparently is also on the board of this Alliance For Securing Democracy, Trump’s negotiation plan is a sign of weakness.

Ignatius wrote as much in a column this morning called “Trump is Wile E. Coyote,” in which the Post writer relayed that his CIA buddies think Trump is getting pantsed by Little Rocket Man. Here’s the lede:

“Beep beep” was the subject line of an email message I received a few weeks ago from former CIA analyst Robert Carlin, as Kim Jong Un was accelerating his diplomatic charm offensive. “So typical,” wrote Carlin in his brief text. “The North Koreans as Road Runner, the U.S. as Wile E. Coyote.”

So to recap: Russian bots are pushing Korean peninsula-related hashtags, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, whose board member David Ignatius is simultaneously telling America that negotiating an end to an unprecedented nuclear danger there makes us look like loser cartoon characters.

As Ignatius wrote: “We’ll probably be chasing Kim around a negotiating table for a while, which is better than ‘duck and cover.’ But as Carlin says, ‘Beep beep.'”

I wrote to Ignatius to ask him what would be good, if negotiating an end to a nuclear standoff is bad. He hasn’t answered.

While the Trump White House has been fumbling to coordinate a response to the whole “The President of the United States apparently cheated on his wife with a porn star and then paid her off” problem, and fighting off the anaconda-like Mueller criminal probe, Trump’s political opposition has been spending more and more time pushing our president into aggressive military stances.

Continuing a theme that really began last year with Trump’s much-praised decision to lob missiles into Syria while eating cake with horrified Chinese leaders, Beltway voices continue to demand, for instance, that Trump escalate America’s on-the-ground opposition to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Both Ignatius and Kenneth Pollock of the American Enterprise Institute are examples of think-tankers arguing the widespread D.C. consensus, that Syria is the perfect place for American forces to dig in and take on Iran, Assad, and by extension Russia as well.

Americans seem to be in denial about the tinderbox nature of this lunatic Syrian situation.

Things took a serious turn in early February, when a mysterious news story suggested Russian contract fighters were killed by American weapons in a town called Deir al-Zour. The incident reportedly happened on the night of February 7th, as part of a counterattacking raid conducted across the Euphrates River by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

News outlets in both the east and the west seriously buried the lede when this incident first took place. The BBC and the AP were classic examples. This was the second-to-last line in the BBC’s February 8th article: The Russian defense ministry said the U.S. strike wounded 25 pro-government volunteers

What? Were any of those “wounded” by our strike Russians? Were they planning to retaliate? What was going on?

The Russians similarly downplayed the incident at first. There were reports from the Russian government that first suggested “five Russian citizens” had died. That later became dozens “injured.”

Then on February 14th, Novaya Gazeta, historically the most trustworthy and independent of Russian news outlets, ran a piece called “Mistake or Treason?” that asserted 13 Russians had died that night. The paper claimed Russian officials let private Russian “Wagner” contract fighters join pro-Assad forces in a troop advance Russian military leaders had assured their American counterparts would not take place.

Novaya Gazeta said the Russians died under fire from Apache helicopters, F-15s, drones, and ground batteries. There were later rumors that the casualties were in the hundreds, but subsequent investigations by outlets like Der Spiegel failed to bear that out.

Still, the mere fact that Russian citizens were killed by American forces in an ongoing proxy war that both sides seem determined to escalate should be absolutely terrifying to ordinary citizens here and there – especially given that aggressive rhetoric is at an all-time high, again on both sides.

Vladimir Putin recently gave a frightening speech in advance of the March 18 presidential “election” in which he spent most of his time boasting about the size, modernity, and potency of Russia’s military.

Pooty-poot boasted of new “unlimited range” nuclear missiles. He paused mid-speech to show a pulled-straight-from-Dr.-Strangeloveanimated clip of a missile weaving through snow-covered mountains on its way to the American continent (the presentation ended up including simulated explosions over Florida).

“Nobody in the world has anything like this,” Putin bragged.

Meanwhile here in the States we’ve had a constant drumbeat of “new Pearl Harbor” stories describing the troll farm indictment as an “act of war,” with politicians and pundits alike calling for escalations of hostilities with Russia.

Putin’s boasts are completely in line with what he’s always been about, using nationalist rhetoric and military imagery to cover up his almost total incompetence as an economic leader. He’s just the latest in a long line of Russian heads of state, dating back to the Soviet days, who reflexively tries to cover up for empty shelves and crumbling infrastructure with marches and missile parades.

Meanwhile, in the States, the only thing about Donald Trump that any sane person ever had to be grateful for was that he entered the White House claiming to be isolationist and war-averse. That soon proved to be a lie like almost everything else about his campaign, but Jesus, do we have to help this clown down the road toward General Trump fantasies?

We have the dumbest, least competent White House in history. Whatever else anyone in America has as a goal for Trump’s remaining time in office, the single most important goal must to be keeping this guy away from the nuclear button. Almost anything else would be survivable.

Which is why it makes no sense to be taunting Trump and basically calling him a wuss for negotiating with Kim Jong Un or being insufficiently aggressive in Syria. In the middle of a shooting conflict, our troops are currently stationed right across the river from large numbers of both private and official Russian forces. Who doesn’t think this is crazy?

The rhetoric we’re hearing now about Trump’s weakness from the likes of Ignatius and Max Boot is essentially identical to the stuff we heard directed at Barack Obama when he had the temerity to express willingness to talk to leaders of nations like Iran.

There is a segment of D.C. thinkluencers who seem to think the U.S. is setting a bad precedent if it doesn’t bomb and threaten its way through every foreign policy conundrum, from Libya to Yemen to Iran to Syria to, apparently, even Russia.

It seems like the smart thing to do would be to wait until we had someone with an IQ over 9 in office before we start demanding that the White House play war with nuclear opponents. Of course, I might be biased because I have kids and live in a major population center. Can we chill on the gunboat diplomacy for a couple of years at least? And if not, why not?


This is what would happen if North Korea launched a real attack

President Trump would have “maybe 10 minutes” to decide whether to launch a retaliatory strike against North Korea — should it ever fire a missile that’s capable of reaching the US mainland, experts say.

Speaking to the Associated Press about what would happen in the event of a nuclear strike from the North, scientist David Wright, of the UCS Global Security Program, and rocket analyst Markus Schiller, of ST Analytics in Germany, described how the drama would unfold.

“The timelines are short,” Wright explained. “Even for long-range missiles, there are a lot of steps that go into detecting the launch and figuring out what it is, leaving the president with maybe 10 minutes to decide whether to launch a retaliatory strike.”

While experts insist that North Korea is still not capable of launching a missile that could reach the United States, the communist nation on Monday claimed it could.

Its state-run KCNA news service alleged that it now has the ability to send a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead” across the Pacific following its test of a Hwasong-12 missile over the weekend.

But Kim Dong-yub, professor at South Korea’s Kyungnam University, told local media that they’d be lucky to reach Alaska or Hawaii, at best.

If they did have the capability of hitting US targets, though, Wright and Schiller predict that things could get out of hand — and fast.

While Wright believes an intercontinental ballistic missile fired from the Hermit Kingdom would take a little over a half-hour to reach San Francisco, Schiller said he believes one could strike Seattle or Los Angeles less than 30 minutes after launch.

New York and Washington, at less than 6,800 miles away, would likely have between 30 and 40 minutes before being hit, Schiller and Wright said.

American allies around the Korean Peninsula will have an even shorter window, should leader Kim Jong Un decide to attack his neighbors in the South Pacific.

People living in Seoul would essentially have zero to 6 minutes — from the moment a missile is launched to the time it hits the target — to take cover in the event of a strike, Schiller and Wright said.

Those in Japan will have a little more time to prepare, but not much. Schiller and Wright estimate that it would take 10 to 11 minutes before a missile from the North reached Tokyo.

Then there’s the added risk of Kim using chemical or biological warheads, while also unleashing a “swarm” attack on South Korea and Japan — using medium-range Scud ER missiles, which were tested back in March.

While defense systems are in place to defend against such assaults, Schiller and Wright warned that they could wind up failing or prove worthless against artillery strikes and multiple projectiles.

The pair told the AP that if the North ultimately thought it was under immediate attack or threatened, one possible scenario would be that it would first target the South Korean city of Busan, which is often used as a port by the US Navy.

From that point on, it is unclear what would likely be the next step — but if Trump did decide to fire back, Schiller and Wright said he could have land-based ICBMs in the air within five minutes, and submarine-based missiles in 15.

A battle is brewing with Russia over the Arctic, and the US is outnumbered

The changing climate has created a new frontier in the Arctic, but as the world’s major powers scramble to take advantage, the U.S. is at risk of falling dangerously behind.

Melting ice has made vast amounts of mineral and energy reserves available for the first time in modern history. As many as 90 billion barrels of oil, the equivalent of 5.9 percent of the world’s known reserves, are up for grabs. That’s more than twice what Russia currently owns, and more than three times what the U.S. has available. The future opportunities could be crucial to the national interest, but the U.S. presence in the region is sorely outnumbered by Russia, according to Coast Guard commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft.

“So the numbers are roughly 40 to 2,” Zukunft told me in an interview regarding U.S. versus Russian icebreaker ship presence. “So if I was playing basketball, those are not good numbers … you are far outnumbered when it comes to having any presence in the Arctic.”

Icebreakers are tailor-made to smash through the tough Arctic ice that cuts off most ships. More icebreakers means more access, and the Russians have a lot more than the U.S. does. To make matters worse, Russia is also staking claim to much of the region.

“Russia has claimed most of the Arctic Ocean up to the North Pole,” explained Zukunft. “Which to me looks like they want to deny access by others.”

Russia is also in the midst of developing new Corvette-class icebreakers that can carry deadly cruise missiles.

“We have no surface presence really to counter a threat like that,” said Zukunft. “But if we have sovereign interests at stake, we might need to look at an icebreaker of the 21st century that we can retrofit with a modular weapons system so we can at least stand our own ground.”

Even if the U.S. were to increase its icebreaker presence, it could still run into some issues with international law. Russia, along with most countries, is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a 1982 agreement which outlined guidelines for how nations can use the world’s oceans. The U.S. participated in the convention, but has yet to sign the agreement.

A treaty requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate for ratification, and conservatives have historically been apprehensive on acquiescing to the convention due to concerns that it may restrict U.S. sovereignty. But James Kraska, an international law expert with the U.S. Naval War College, has argued that joining could empower the U.S. position by giving it a solid legal framework from which to gather ocean resources.

Zukunft believes that signing onto the convention would be a positive step when it comes to staking a U.S. claim in the Arctic, but even with the legal backing, the Coast Guard could use some financial help from Congress.

“They already know what they need,” noted Zukunft, with a smile. “We need to grow our budget by five percent ever year.”

It’s a modest request for a force that is responsible for a litany of jobs along the nation’s massive coast line and beyond. With the increase, Zukunft can build the new icebreakers, ships and unmanned aerial vehicles the services needs. He can also expand his workforce and hire back 1,100 reservists that were cut due to budget constraints.

“Not a big ask for a service that is only funded at $10.5 billion to begin with,” said Zukunft. “That would put the Coast Guard where it needs to be in the 21st century.”

Donald Trump’s Reckless Response to North Korea’s Nuclear Test

Matters with North Korea, never good, have deteriorated during Trump’s Presidency. What has changed is not the South’s “appeasement” but his heedless will toward escalation.

Photograph by Ahn Young-joon / AP

It ’s not clear what time Donald Trump, our restless President, was told of the latest North Korean nuclear test, which took place close to midnight Saturday, Washington time, and was that nation’s largest yet—Kim Jong-un’s first hydrogen bomb, apparently. But it only took until 7:30 a.m. for Trump to make an extremely dangerous and volatile situation worse. He did so, in part, by attacking South Korea, America’s ally and a country at risk in any confrontation—its capital, Seoul, home to ten million people, is close to the border, within range of the North’s artillery—for a supposed lack of toughness. Even at a moment of historic crisis, Trump can’t shake his bully’s instincts: disdain those who you think are weak; home in on and mock the vulnerable; blind yourself to the realities of your own circumstances and character; and pretend that a brawl will make it all better, despite the certainty that it won’t.

The first tweet was relatively straightforward: “North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States…..” “Major” is an apt word: tremors of the underground test, including an aftershock suggesting the collapse of whatever cave or chamber it was in, were felt in both South Korea and China, and detected as far away as Argentina. North Korea has falsely bragged about the size of its bombs before, and the stage management of this test—a picture of Kim inspecting a mystery weapon, shown on North Korean television hours before—might have signalled that this, North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, was exaggerated. But the seismic measurements indicate that its power is many times that of North Korea’s previous detonations, and also about a half dozen times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. But, as Trump’s elongated ellipsis suggested, he wasn’t just going to talk about the facts. He had some blame to dole out.

“North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success,” he tweeted next. And then: “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

What is that “one thing”? War, missiles, tweets, Trumpism? “Fire and fury like the world has never seen,” as Trump promised to inflict on North Korea last month if the country acted in a hostile manner? (Trump made that threat at an event at which he was supposed to be talking about the opioid crisis, and it had the effect of distracting attention from that situation; similarly, his latest remarks may take necessary attention away from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.) It seems to have escaped Trump that matters with North Korea, never good, have deteriorated during his Presidency. What has changed is not the South’s “appeasement” but his heedless will toward escalation. That the people of Seoul, who have built up their city, and, over the years, their democracy, in the face of the spectre of war, might have their own definition of fortitude is an idea that he doesn’t seem able to grasp. (As the Times noted, Trump’s anger at South Korea appears to be connected to his anger over his so far unsuccessful attempt to rewrite trade deals with that nation—an issue that, one hopes, will not be entangled with the question of triggering a nuclear war.) Instead, last week, Trump said that he thought that Kim had begun to show “respect” for him. That boast was followed by North Korea’s firing of a ballistic missile on a flight path that took it over the Japanese island of Hokkaido. Trump responded by tweeting, “The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” What, again, is Trump’s answer? China, which quickly condemned the test, could certainly do more, but baiting its officials with talk of their “embarrassment” may not be the best mode of persuasion—unless Trump thinks that he has cowed President Xi Jinping into a state of abject respect for him, too.

“Mr. President, will you attack North Korea?” a reporter asked Trump on Sunday morning, as he was leaving church, a couple of hours after his tweets. He answered, “We’ll see.” By then, his national-security team had mustered, to deal with both Kim and, presumably, Trump. In yet another tweet, a little after noon, Trump said, “I will be meeting General Kelly, General Mattis and other military leaders at the White House to discuss North Korea. Thank you.” It is revealing that Trump still classifies John Kelly, his chief of staff, who, like James Mattis, his Secretary of Defense, is retired from the Marines, as a general and a military leader. And was that “Thank you.” directed at them? There are reasons it should be: within an hour of Trump’s rejection of talk last week, Mattis told reporters that “we’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”

Mattis was also asked, in a separate encounter with reporters last week, why he hadn’t quit working for Trump. “You know, when a President of the United States asks you to do something, I come,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s Republican or Democrat; we all have an obligation to serve. That’s all there is to it.” Mattis added that he had had arguments with Trump, he said, but “this is not a man who’s immune to being persuaded, if he thinks you’ve got an argument. So anyway, press on.” Press on, and hope, meanwhile, that President Trump will not press any buttons.

Perhaps Mattis put that proposition to the test in his meeting with Trump Sunday afternoon. Afterward, Mattis emerged to make a brief statement, in which he said that North Korea should be aware that any threat to America or its allies could be met with a “massive military response.” But he also noted that the United States was not a lone enforcer, and that the United Nations had spoken with a “unified voice” in calling for a denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. He hoped that Kim was listening to all of them, “because we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea. But as I said we have many options to do so.” President Trump, Mattis said, had “wanted to be briefed on each one of them.”

  • Amy Davidson Sorkin is a New Yorker staff writer. She is a regular Comment contributor for the magazine and writes a Web column, in which she covers war, sports, and everything in between

North Korea tests new missile engine, US officials say

  • 23 June 2017
  • From the sectionAsia
North Korean military paradeImage copyrightAFP
Image captionNorth Korea hopes its military arsenal will be a deterrent against the US

North Korea has tested a new rocket engine as part of its efforts to build a missile capable of reaching the American mainland, US officials said.

The news comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyangover the North’s nuclear ambitions.

The Trump administration has made the issue one of its top priorities.

Despite international condemnation, North Korea has increased its missile tests, with the aim of developing an intercontinental nuclear-armed rocket.

The US Defense Intelligence Agency warned last month that North Korea was on an “inevitable” path to achieving this.

US officials speaking anonymously to several news agencies said the latest engine test, on Thursday, could be one stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) engine that would be able to reach the US.

Due to the secretive nature of all of North Korea’s military activity, it is hard for experts to assess how close the country is to building a reliable ICBM.

line break

North Korea’s missiles – what do we know?

  • North Korean missiles can already reach South Korea or Japan, both countries have a US military presence.
  • A missile to reach the US mainland is in development but it’s not clear what stage the project is at.
  • North Korea has conducted several successful nuclear tests.
  • But it’s thought they have not yet managed to build a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a missile.
North Korean missile range
line break

US-ally South Korea on Friday tested a missile of its own and President Mon Jae-in said dialogue with the North was possible only when backed by a strong defence able to “overwhelm the North”.

The South’s military does not have nuclear weapons but is backed by strong support from US troops troops stationed in the country.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday urged China to use more diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang “if they want to prevent further escalation in the region”.

China is seen as North Korea’s main ally and the US hopes Beijing can have greater influence on the totalitarian state to stop both its missile tests and nuclear programme.

US President Donald Trump has said he would like to solve the North Korea crisis diplomatically, but has previously warned that a “major, major conflict” is possible.

Tensions spiked once again last week when US student Otto Warmbier, who was serving a hard labour sentence in North Korea for stealing a propaganda sign, died shortly after returning home in a coma.

The US regularly conducts drills with Japan as well as South Korea, and is installing a controversial missile defence system in South Korea, known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (Thaad).

But South Korea recently said it was suspending the further deployment of the system until an environmental assessment was completed.

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?

THE ONION: A Timeline Of U.S.–North Korean Relations


As tensions mount between North Korea and American allies, The Onion looks back at key moments in the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea.

  • 1948

    God decides to come to Earth in the form of 36-year-old Korean man Kim Il-sung

  • 1950

    The outbreak of the Korean War marks the high point of U.S.–North Korean relations

  • 1973

    Henry Blake’s plane is shot down, sending Hawkeye and the 4077th into drunken despair

  • June 1994

    Kim Il-sung meets with one-term U.S. Supreme Leader Jimmy Carter

  • July 1994

    After considering a record number of talented sons, Kim Il-sung ultimately designates Kim Jong-il as his successor

  • 1996

    Three million patriotic North Koreans agree to starve to death for the good of their country

  • 2003

    North Korea withdraws from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, indicating that the country has developed the capabilities to lie

  • 2008

    George W. Bush removes North Korea from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list after officials agree to focus solely on acts of domestic terror

  • 2013

    Dennis Rodman severely botches assassination attempt of top North Korean officials

  • 2016

    North Korean missile successfully takes out U.S. allied mackerel in Sea of Japan

  • November 2016

    After years of watching North Korea with jealousy, the U.S. electorate decide to try out an erratic strongman with nuclear capabilities for themselves

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.

North Korean crisis averted, but tensions remain dangerously high

by , USA TODAYPublished 10:31 a.m. ET April 16, 2017

A feared military confrontation between North Korea and the United States didn’t materialize over the weekend, but tensions between the two countries remain dangerously high for the indefinite future.

A failed test of a medium-range ballistic missile that blew up almost immediately Sunday did not provoke a U.S. military response. Even so, North Korea has made progress with its nuclear weapons and missile programs and is led by an unpredictable dictator, Kim Jong Un, who views America’s new president as a threat. That won’t change anytime soon.

President Trump has vowed that he will not allow North Korea to develop a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon that can strike the United States, and Kim has vowed to pursue that very goal to prevent a pre-emptive U.S. strike. Last week, North Korea warned that the two countries were edging toward nuclear war.

The U.S. military was watching North Korea intently Saturday as it marked the 105th birthday of founding leader Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong Un. The North traditionally marks the occasion with shows of military strength, including nuclear or missile tests. This time, it paraded its latest missile hardware through the capital Pyongyang, showing off many new weapons. They included a new short-range missile and the country’s latest submarine-launched missile.

The North Koreans did not conduct a nuclear weapons test, which would have been its sixth since 2006, a far more provocative move than a missile test, which the U.S. military confirmed proved to be a dud.

Still, the United States showed no sign of backing down in the face of North Korea’s increasingly belligerent rhetoric and actions. Vice President Pence, who arrived Sunday in Seoul as part of a 10-day Asian trip, said, “Our resolve has never been stronger, our commitment to this historic alliance with the courageous people of South Korea has never been stronger, and with your help and God’s help, freedom will ever prevail on this peninsula.”

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, said on ABC’s This Week  that the missile test “fits into a pattern of provocative and destabilizing and threatening behavior on the part of the North Korean regime. He added that “there’s an international consensus now — including the Chinese and the Chinese leadership — that this is a situation that just can’t continue.”

The U.S. has nearly 30,000 troops stationed in South Korea, and recently began installing a missile defense system to protect the country — including 20 million people living in Seoul — from a North Korean attack on the capital city, which is the region’s biggest fear.

Sunday’s ballistic missile test was a humiliating failure for Kim, and may only spur him to accelerate his nuclear program.

David Albright, a nuclear expert with the Institute for Science and International Security, estimated that through 2020, North Korea will have enough plutonium and weapons-grade uranium for about 25-50 nuclear weapons, according to a report provided to the Associated Press.

Political tensions between the United States and North Korea also are heightened because Trump is in the first months of his presidency, and North Korea may be testing him to see how he reacts. Trump’s answer: He is willing to unleash military power to eliminate any threat to the U.S. homeland. But Trump hasn’t ruled out non-military pressure by urging China — North Korea’s economic lifeline — to rein in its volatile neighbor to the south.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that China is “working with us on the North Korean problem.”

Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!

Last week the United States dropped one of the biggest conventional bombs in its arsenal — a 22,000-pound behemoth — on an Islamic State cave and tunnel network in Afghanistan, an action that captured worldwide attention.

Before that, the U.S. military fired 59 cruise missiles at an airbase in Syria in retaliation for President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians in a rebel-held city.

The Pentagon said the Afghanistan and Syrian strikes were not meant to send a broader message, but North Korea surely was watching closely and drawing lessons from Trump’s willingness to use military power.

It doesn’t appear to have cooled the rhetoric or actions of North Korean leaders. North Korea Vice Minister Han Song Ryol told the Associated Press on Friday that his country has determined the Trump administration is “more vicious and more aggressive” than that of President Barack Obama, and is preparing for war.