TRUMP, MATTIS AT ODDS OVER N. KOREA
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
“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.