NK threat ‘manageable’: Trump’s chief of staff
Kelly says he’s not quitting
— White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Thursday the North Korean nuclear and missile threat is “manageable” for now but the isolated nation can’t be allowed to develop the ability to strike the U.S. homeland.
Although President Donald Trump recently declared his top diplomat was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with the North, Kelly said he hopes diplomacy works before the nation can develop its weapons capabilities further.
Kelly comments at a White House news conference were milder than Trump’s recent pronouncements. Over the past three weeks the president has exchanged threats and personal insults with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, escalating tensions.
Kelly said that Americans should be concerned about North Korea. He said the North has developed a “pretty good” intercontinental ballistic missile capability and is developing a nuclear re-entry vehicle, which is needed for a missile to survive re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Then he spelled out a bottom line.
“I think I speak for the administration, that that state can simply not have the ability to reach the homeland,” Kelly said.
He said there’s already “great concern” about Americans who live in Guam. North Korea in August threatened to fire a salvo of intermediate range missiles toward the U.S. Pacific island territory, a major military hub and home to U.S. bombers that periodically fly missions over the divided Korean Peninsula.
“Right now we think the threat is manageable,” he said, but added the situation would become more problematic over time if North Korea’s capability “grows beyond where it is today.”
“Let’s hope that diplomacy works,” he said.
He also declared he’s staying in his post — and to insist that the president’s volatile Twitter feed wasn’t making his job harder.
“Unless things change, I’m not quitting, I’m not getting fired and I don’t think I’ll fire anyone tomorrow,” chief of staff John Kelly told reporters during a surprise showing at the daily White House briefing. “I don’t think I’m being fired today, and I’m not so frustrated in this job that I’m thinking of leaving.”
The extraordinary statement drew a bit of laughter, but it reflected ongoing turmoil in the top ranks of a White House riven by staff changes, internal feuds and reports that Kelly is growing increasingly frustrated in his position.
Trump, in turn, has at times chafed at Kelly’s efforts to reign in the freewheeling, open-door style that marked his business career and early months in the White House.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., Thursday. AFP-Yonhap