Trump’s North Korea threat dis­missed

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

THE TWO coun­tries most at risk from a US at­tack on North Korea largely brushed off US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s threat to un­leash “fire and fury”.

South Korea said on Wed­nes­day it was watch­ing for any new provo­ca­tions by North Korea, and would con­tinue to push for peace. Yon­hap News Agency cited an uniden­ti­fied of­fi­cial at the pres­i­den­tial of­fice in Seoul say­ing there was no “im­mi­nent cri­sis”.

In Ja­pan, gov­ern­ment spokesman Yoshi­hide Suga spent more time an­swer­ing ques­tions on Wed­nes­day about a dis­pute with the US over the safety of its Osprey mil­i­tary air­craft than about North Korea. A se­nior Ja­panese of­fi­cial, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, said there was no mo­bil­i­sa­tion for a mil­i­tary strike and very few peo­ple in the gov­ern­ment were tak­ing Trump’s com­ments se­ri­ously.

Trump fol­lowed his “fire and fury” threat by stat­ing that the Amer­i­can nu­clear ar­se­nal was stronger than ever. “There will never be a time that we are not the most pow­er­ful na­tion in the world,” he said on Wed­nes­day.

Trump’s com­ments prompted a wave of crit­i­cism in Wash­ing­ton. Se­na­tor John McCain said he wasn’t sure Trump was ready to act, while Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Eliot En­gel, the top Demo­crat on the House For­eign Af­fairs com­mit­tee, said the com­ments “un­der­mined Amer­i­can cred­i­bil­ity by draw­ing an ab­surd red line”.

The sub­dued re­ac­tion from Seoul and Tokyo in part re­flects their long his­tory of deal­ing with threats from North Korea. Both US al­lies have long been in the fir­ing line of Kim Jong-un and reg­u­larly hear the regime’s threats of death and de­struc­tion. South Korea and Ja­pan each host US troops and de­pend on the Amer­i­can “nu­clear um­brella” to de­ter an at­tack.

Still, Trump’s com­ments on Wed­nes­day high­light a grow­ing con­cern over the re­li­a­bil­ity of the US as a strate­gic part­ner.

Trump has said South Korea and Ja­pan should pay more to host US troops and sought to rene­go­ti­ate trade terms.

Mean­while, the Pen­tagon’s top weapons sup­plier, Lock­heed Martin, has ex­pe­ri­enced a sharp rise in their stock shares since Trump’s threats of a po­ten­tial mil­i­tary op­tion have es­ca­lated. The shares have risen nearly 8% in the past month.

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