NK threat ‘man­age­able’: Trump’s chief of staff

Kelly says he’s not quit­ting

The Korea Times - - WORLD - WASH­ING­TON (AP)

— 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

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