TRUMP, MAT­TIS AT ODDS OVER N. KOREA

Montreal Gazette - - NAVIGATOR - SHIN­HYE KANG AND JOE SOBCZYK

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion de­liv­ered mixed sig­nals on North Korea’s lat­est provo­ca­tion with the pres­i­dent dis­miss­ing the idea of ne­go­ti­at­ing with Kim Jong Un’s regime and his de­fence chief say­ing the U.S. hasn’t ex­hausted its diplo­matic op­tions.

Af­ter sug­gest­ing last week that North Korea’s leader “is start­ing to re­spect us,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wed­nes­day re­turned to his tougher line af­ter Kim’s gov­ern­ment fired a mis­sile over north­ern Ja­pan and is­sued a vague warn­ing about con­tain­ing U.S. forces on

Guam.

“The U.S. has been talk­ing to North Korea, and pay­ing them ex­tor­tion money, for 25 years. Talk­ing is not the an­swer!” Trump said in tweet.

But De­fence Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis an­swered “No,” when asked Wed­nes­day whether Trump’s com­ments mean the

U.S. and its al­lies have taken di­plo­macy as far as it can go.

“We’re never out of diplo­matic so­lu­tions,” Mat­tis said.

The U.S. has al­ter­nated be­tween threats and con­cil­ia­tory lan­guage in re­spond­ing to North Korea’s threats and mis­sile tests as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion grap­ples with a mer­cu­rial ad­ver­sary that has vexed U.S. pres­i­dents for decades.

Af­ter Kim tested a mis­sile and then threat­ened the U.S. territory of Guam in early Au­gust, Trump said the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary would un­leash “fire and fury” on North Korea if he fol­lowed through. But a brief pause in North Korean mis­sile tests prompted a change in tone. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said last week that the regime in Py­ongyang “has cer­tainly demon­strated some level of re­straint that we have not seen in the past.” Trump him­self said he saw a change. “I re­spect the fact that I be­lieve he is start­ing to re­spect us,’ he said at a po­lit­i­cal rally on Aug. 22.

But then came the lat­est mis­sile launch, es­ca­lat­ing the grow­ing in­ter­na­tional cri­sis over the Her­mit King­dom’s nu­clear pro­gram.

Ac­cord­ing to the North Korean state news agency, Kim called it a “cur­tain raiser,” and added: “The cur­rent bal­lis­tic rocket launch­ing drill, like a real war, is the first step of the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in the Pa­cific and a mean­ing­ful pre­lude to con­tain­ing Guam.” He promised “more bal­lis­tic rocket launch­ing drills with the Pa­cific as a tar­get in the fu­ture.”

Ja­pan pushed for fresh sanc­tions that could tar­get North Kore­ans work­ing abroad, the coun­try’s oil sup­ply, and tex­tile ex­ports.

The United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Council said in a state­ment it “strongly con­demns” the launch.

In a twist of tim­ing, the Pen­tagon on Wed­nes­day said it suc­cess­fully con­ducted a mis­sile de­fence test, in­ter­cept­ing a medium-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile off the coast of Hawaii in a re­peat of an ear­lier suc­cess­ful in­ter­cept us­ing a Raytheon Co. SM-6. The test had been sched­uled prior to the lat­est round of ten­sions with North Korea.

THE U.S. HAS BEEN TALK­ING TO N. KOREA ... FOR 25 YEARS. TALK­ING IS NOT THE AN­SWER.

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