Trump warns North Korea to 'get their act to­gether'

Pres­i­dent says ‘fire and fury’ com­ment per­haps was not tough enough.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan Lemire and Josh Lederman

Not back­ing BED­MIN­STER, N.J. — down, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump warned Kim Jong Un and his gov­ern­ment on Thurs­day to “get their act to­gether” or face ex­tra­or­di­nary trou­ble, and sug­gested his ear­lier threat to un­leash “fire and fury” on North Korea was too mild.

“Maybe that state­ment wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said in the lat­est of an es­ca­lat­ing ex­change of threats be­tween the nu­clear-armed na­tions.

But a day af­ter North Korea laid out plans to strike near Guam, U.S. of­fi­cials said there was no ma­jor move­ment of U.S. mil­i­tary as­sets to the re­gion, nor were there signs Py­ongyang was ac­tively pre­par­ing for war.

Trump de­clined to say whether the U.S. is con­sid­er­ing a pre-emp­tive mil­i­tary strike as he spoke to re­porters be­fore a brief­ing with his top na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vis­ers at his New Jersey golf re­sort.

The pres­i­dent in­sisted the North had been “get­ting away with a tragedy that can’t be al­lowed.”

“North Korea bet­ter get their act to­gether, or they are go­ing to be in trou­ble like few na­tions have ever been in trou­ble,” said Trump, flanked by Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence. Ac­cus­ing his pre­de­ces­sors of in­suf­fi­cient ac­tion, Trump said it was time some­body stood up to the pariah na­tion.

Though tensions have been build­ing for months amid new mis­sile tests by the North, the pace has in­ten­si­fied since the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil on Satur­day passed sweeping new sanc­tions that Trump had re­quested. The sanc­tions prompted the new heated vol­ley of rhetoric.

In the lat­est move by North Korea, its mil­i­tary an­nounced a de­tailed plan to fire four Hwa­song-12 mis­siles over Ja­pan and into wa­ters around the tiny U.S. ter­ri­tory of Guam, home to two U.S. bases and 160,000 peo­ple.

North Korea said its mil­i­tary would fi­nal­ize the plan by mid-Au­gust, then wait for Kim’s or­der. U.S. al­lies Ja­pan and South Korea quickly vowed a strong re­ac­tion if the North were to follow through.

Trump echoed that threat Thurs­day, in­sist­ing if North Korea took any steps to at­tack Guam, its lead­ers would have rea­son to be ner­vous.

“Things will hap­pen to them like they never thought pos­si­ble, OK?” Trump said. He did not spec­ify what they might be.

Mil­i­tary an­a­lysts said it was un­usual for Py­ongyang to give such a pre­cise tar­get for a mil­i­tary ac­tion. Still, there were no signs that North Korea was se­ri­ously mo­bi­liz­ing its pop­u­la­tion for war, such as by pulling work­ers from fac­to­ries or putting the army on for­mal alert.

“There’s a lot of theater to this whole thing,” said Bob Car­lin, former North­east Asia chief for the State Depart­ment’s in­tel­li­gence arm.

Sim­i­larly, the U.S. mil­i­tary gave no indi­ca­tions it per­ceived a se­ri­ously es­ca­lat­ing threat from Py­ongyang, such as mov­ing to evac­u­ate Amer­i­can per­son­nel or their fam­i­lies from Guam, where there are 7,000 U.S. troops, or South Korea, where there are 28,000.

And U.S. of­fi­cials in­sisted no sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of troops, ships, air­craft or other as­sets were be­ing di­rected to the re­gion, be­yond any that had been pre­vi­ously sched­uled. The of­fi­cials weren’t au­tho­rized to dis­cuss mil­i­tary plan­ning pub­licly and re­quested anonymity.

Trump said he would soon an­nounce a re­quest for a bud­get in­crease of “bil­lions of dol­lars” for anti-mis­sile sys­tems.

But as it is, the U.S. has a ro­bust mil­i­tary pres­ence in the re­gion, in­clud­ing six B-1 bombers in Guam and Air Force fighter jet units in South Korea, plus other as­sets across the Pa­cific Ocean and in the skies above. Wash­ing­ton’s vast mil­i­tary op­tions range from noth­ing to a full-on con­ven­tional as­sault by air, sea and ground forces. Any or­der by the pres­i­dent could be ex­e­cuted quickly.

Cur­rent and former U.S. of­fi­cials said if war did come, the U.S. and its al­lies would likely hit hard and fast, us­ing airstrikes, drone op­er­a­tions and cy­ber­at­tacks aimed at mil­i­tary bases, air bases, mis­sile sites, ar­tillery, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­mand and con­trol head­quar­ters and in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing and sur­veil­lance ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Key threats would be North Korea’s small but ca­pa­ble navy, in­clud­ing sub­marines that can move qui­etly to at­tack. And Py­ongyang also has sig­nif­i­cant cy­ber abil­i­ties, al­though not as so­phis­ti­cated as Amer­ica’s. The North has made decades of prepa­ra­tions for a ground war and would be a for­mi­da­ble force on the bor­der.

“Do I have mil­i­tary op­tions? Of course I do. That’s my re­spon­si­bil­ity,” De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis said Wed­nes­day. But he said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion wants “to use diplo­macy.”

To that end, Trump said he “of course” would al­ways con­sider ne­go­ti­a­tions with North Korea, but added that talks have failed for the last 25 years. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, in Asia this week, said North Korea could sig­nal it was ready for such talks by halt­ing any mis­sile tests for an ex­tended pe­riod.

North Korea in its threat against Guam said it would in­volve the Hwa­song-12, an in­ter­me­di­ate-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile first re­vealed in April and be­lieved to have a ra­dius of more than 2,300 miles. The North said four of the mis­siles would hit wa­ters as close as 20 miles from Guam.

“We keep closely watch­ing the speech and be­hav­ior of the U.S.,” read a mil­i­tary state­ment car­ried by of­fi­cial state-run me­dia.

Guam lies about 2,100 miles from the Korean Penin­sula, and it’s ex­tremely un­likely Kim’s gov­ern­ment would risk an­ni­hi­la­tion with a pre-emp­tive at­tack on U.S. cit­i­zens. It’s also un­clear how re­li­able North Korea’s mis­siles would be against such a dis­tant tar­get.

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