Trump: Mil­i­tary 'locked and loaded"

Pres­i­dent con­tin­ues to sug­gest he is ready to strike North Korea, which poses a nu­clear threat to U.S.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Peter Baker and Javier C. Hernán­dez ©2017 The New York Times

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is­sued yet more provoca­tive warn­ings of mil­i­tary ac­tion against North Korea on Fri­day as he con­tin­ued to sug­gest that he was ready to strike the small, iso­lated Asian coun­try that has been de­vel­op­ing nu­clear weapons ca­pa­ble of reach­ing the United States.

Trump started the morn­ing with a Twit­ter mes­sage say­ing the U.S. mil­i­tary was “locked and loaded” for con­flict, and then fol­lowed up in the af­ter­noon by telling re­porters that he hoped the North Kore­ans “fully un­der­stand the grav­ity of what I said.” He sin­gled out Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, say­ing Kim had been al­lowed to desta­bi­lize the re­gion for too long.

“This man will not get away with what he’s do­ing,” the pres­i­dent told re­porters at his golf club in Bed­min­ster, N.J., where he met with Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son and U.N. Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley later in the day. “If he ut­ters one threat in the form of an overt threat” or takes ac­tion against the U.S. ter­ri­tory of Guam or against the United States’ al­lies, “he will truly re­gret it and he will re­gret it fast,” Trump said.

He dis­missed for­eign lead­ers, law­mak­ers and na­tional se­cu­rity ex­perts who have called his threats rash and even reck­less.

“My crit­ics are only say­ing that be­cause it’s me,” Trump said. “If some­body ut­tered the ex­act same words that I ut­tered, they’d say, ‘What a great state­ment, what a won­der­ful state­ment.’ ”

Trump’s morn­ing tweet said “mil­i­tary solutions” were ready “should North Korea act un­wisely.” To re­in­force the point, the pres­i­dent later shared a post from the U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand stat­ing that it was stand­ing by for or­ders should the need arise.

“#USAF B-1B Lancer #bombers on Guam stand ready to ful­fill USFK’s #FightTonight mis­sion if called upon to do so,” the tweet said.

Trump’s com­ments do not nec­es­sar­ily in­di­cate a spe­cific change in mil­i­tary readi­ness or any im­mi­nent ac­tion. The motto of U.S. forces based along­side al­lied troops in South Korea has long been “Ready to Fight Tonight,” mainly a slo­gan em­pha­siz­ing pre­pared­ness rather than a state­ment of hos­til­ity. There has been lit­tle if any sign of mo­bi­liza­tion that might sug­gest prepa­ra­tions for a strike.

Even with­out nu­clear weapons, North Korea has an ar­ray of con­ven­tional ar­tillery that an­a­lysts said could lay waste to Seoul and other parts of South Korea if war were to start, yet no move has been made to be­gin evac­u­at­ing the many thou­sands of Amer­i­can civil­ians liv­ing there.

Trump has spent at least part of his week play­ing golf, and held a meet­ing Fri­day on work­force de­vel­op­ment. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence was in Indianapolis talk­ing about anti-crime ef­forts.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­peat­edly said its diplo­matic ini­tia­tive to pres­sure North Korea into aban­don­ing its nu­clear weapons and bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram is still in its early phases, with much work re­main­ing to be done. Tiller­son has sig­naled that the United States is open to talks if North Korea stops the se­ries of mis­sile tests that have rat­tled the re­gion in re­cent weeks.

Most im­por­tantly, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion hopes to per­suade China to use its con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence over North Korea’s econ­omy and po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship to re­solve the sit­u­a­tion. An­a­lysts say, how­ever, that noth­ing is likely to hap­pen un­til this fall’s Party Congress is com­pleted. In­deed, all of China’s lead­er­ship is at the beach this week­end, so even get­ting calls re­turned in Bei­jing would be dif­fi­cult.

Trump re­ar­ranged his sched­ule to re­turn to Washington on Mon­day for the day, a brief break in his 17-day es­cape from the White House. Aides said he would hold meet­ings on trade and na­tional se­cu­rity, but it was not clear what might come from them.

As be­fore, Trump’s Fri­day morn­ing state­ment did not make clear what would con­sti­tute an ac­tion that would re­quire a U.S. mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion — would the United States take ac­tion only in re­tal­i­a­tion for an at­tack by North Korea, or would it strike to stop fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of nu­clear weapons?

The stri­dent lan­guage emerg­ing from New Jersey has set much of the world on edge.

Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull of Aus­tralia said his coun­try would sup­port the United States if it were at­tacked by North Korea. In a state­ment re­leased af­ter a meet­ing with de­fense of­fi­cials and pol­icy ex­perts, Turn­bull de­nounced North Korea’s “il­le­gal, reck­less, provoca­tive con­duct,” which he said threat­ened sta­bil­ity in the re­gion and “put the world at risk.”

“We stand shoul­der-to-shoul­der with the United States,” Turn­bull, who spoke with Pence this week, said in the state­ment.


Nikki Ha­ley, the United Na­tions am­bas­sador, looks on as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks Fri­day at his golf club in Bed­min­ster, N.J.

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