Trump says US is ‘locked and loaded’

Xi: Avoid words that would ex­ac­er­bate the ten­sion

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping made a plea for cool­head­ed­ness over escalating ten­sions be­tween the US and North Korea in a phone con­ver­sa­tion with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump yes­ter­day, urg­ing both sides to avoid words or ac­tions that could worsen the sit­u­a­tion. The call came af­ter Trump un­leashed a slew of fresh threats against North Korea on Fri­day, declar­ing the US mil­i­tary “locked and loaded” and warn­ing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he “will re­gret it fast” if he takes any ac­tion against US ter­ri­to­ries or al­lies.

Trump has pushed China to pres­sure North Korea to halt a nu­clear weapons pro­gram that is nearing the ca­pa­bil­ity of tar­get­ing the United States. China is the North’s big­gest eco­nomic part­ner and source of aid, but says it alone can’t com­pel Py­ongyang to end its nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grams. The White House said in a state­ment that Trump and Xi “agreed North Korea must stop its provoca­tive and es­ca­la­tory be­hav­ior.” It also said that the two “re­it­er­ated their mu­tual com­mit­ment to de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula.”

State-run China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion quoted Xi as telling Trump the “rel­e­vant par­ties must main­tain re­straint and avoid words and deeds that would ex­ac­er­bate the ten­sion on the Korean Penin­sula.” But re­straint was not the word of the day on Fri­day as Trump sent out a cas­cade of un­scripted state­ments, in­clud­ing what ap­peared to be an­other red line - the mere ut­ter­ance of threats - that would trig­ger a US at­tack against North Korea and “big, big trou­ble” for Kim.

North Korea’s Minju Jo­son news­pa­per, mean­while, lashed back at the US in an ed­i­to­rial yes­ter­day. “The pow­er­ful rev­o­lu­tion­ary Paek­tu­san army of the DPRK, ca­pa­ble of fight­ing any war the US wants, is now on the standby to launch fire into its main­land, wait­ing for an or­der of fi­nal at­tack,” it said. DPRK stands for North Korea’s of­fi­cial name, the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea. The tough talk capped a week in which long-stand­ing ten­sions be­tween the coun­tries risked abruptly boil­ing over.

New United Na­tions sanc­tions con­demn­ing the North’s rapidly de­vel­op­ing nu­clear pro­gram drew fresh ire and threats from Py­ongyang. Trump, re­spond­ing to a re­port that US in­tel­li­gence in­di­cates Py­ongyang can now put a nu­clear war­head on its long-range mis­siles, vowed to rain down “fire and fury” if chal­lenged.

The North then came out with a threat to lob four in­ter­me­di­ate-range “Hwa­song-12” mis­siles near Guam, a tiny US ter­ri­tory some 3,200 kilo­me­ters from Py­ongyang. At the epi­cen­ter of the rhetoric, Trump’s New Jersey golf course, the pres­i­dent seemed to put Kim on no­tice, say­ing, “If he ut­ters one threat in the form of an overt threat which by the way he has been ut­ter­ing for years and his fam­ily has been ut­ter­ing for years - or he does any­thing with re­spect to Guam or any­place else that’s an Amer­i­can ter­ri­tory or an Amer­i­can ally, he will truly re­gret it and he will re­gret it fast.”

‘You know the an­swer’

Asked if the US was go­ing to war, he said cryp­ti­cally, “I think you know the an­swer to that.” But Trump’s com­ments did not ap­pear to be backed by sig­nif­i­cant mil­i­tary mo­bi­liza­tion on ei­ther side of the Pa­cific, and an im­por­tant, quiet diplo­matic chan­nel re­mained open. As a pre­cau­tion, Ja­pan de­ployed mis­sile de­fense bat­ter­ies un­der the path a North Korean mis­sile might take.

Life on the streets of the North Korean cap­i­tal, Py­ongyang, also re­mained calm. There have been no air raid drills or cars in cam­ou­flage net­ting as has been the case dur­ing pre­vi­ous crises. State-run me­dia en­sures that the pop­u­la­tion gets the North Korean side of the story, but doesn’t con­vey any sense of in­ter­na­tional con­cern about the sit­u­a­tion.

US of­fi­cials say they will be go­ing ahead with longsched­uled mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea. Py­ongyang says it will be ready to send its mis­sile launch plan to Kim for ap­proval just be­fore or as the drills be­gin. Called UlchiFree­dom Guardian, the ex­er­cises are ex­pected to run Aug 21-31 and in­volve tens of thou­sands of Amer­i­can and South Korean troops on the ground and in the sea and air. North Korea claims the ex­er­cises are a re­hearsal for war, but Washington and Seoul say they are nec­es­sary to de­ter North Korean aggression.

Trump be­gan his Fri­day bar­rage with an es­pe­cially fiery tweet: “Mil­i­tary so­lu­tions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act un­wisely. Hope­fully Kim Jong Un will find an­other path!” He later retweeted a post­ing from US Pa­cific Com­mand that showed B-1B Lancer bomber planes on Guam that “stand ready to ful­fill USFK’s #FightTonight mis­sion if called upon to do so.” “Fight tonight” has long been the motto of US forces in South Korea to show they’re al­ways ready for com­bat on the Korean Penin­sula. — AP

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