Trumps's tweet, Mat­tis clash­ing over N. Korea

Pres­i­dent dis­dains ‘talk­ing’; de­fense chief cham­pi­ons it.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY'S TOP NEWS - By Jil Colvin and Matthew Pennington

Declar­ing Wed­nes­day on Twit­ter that “talk­ing is not the an­swer” on North Korea, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ap­peared to clash with ef­forts by his Cab­i­net mem­bers as Kim Jong Un’s mil­i­tary races to­ward build­ing a nu­clear-tipped mis­sile that can reach Amer­ica.

The pres­i­dent’s morn­ing tweet came a day after a highly provoca­tive North Korean mis­sile test that flew over Ja­pan, a close Amer­i­can ally.

On Wed­nes­day, Kim called for more weapons launches in the Pa­cific.

“The U.S. has been talk­ing to North Korea, and pay­ing them ex­tor­tion money, for 25 years. Talk­ing is not the an­swer!” Trump tweeted.

The state­ment raised fresh un­cer­tainty about the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s strat­egy for North Korea.

How the U.S. plans to ad­dress the North’s grow- ing nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties is of in­creas­ing ur­gency not just in North­east Asia, but also in the United States. Last month, the iso­lated, com­mu­nist coun­try tested for the first time a mis­sile that could po­ten­tially strike the U.S. main­land.

Trump didn’t spell out what he meant by “ex­tor­tion,” but he ap­peared to be re­fer­ring to the $1.3 bil- lion the U.S. has pro­vided in aid to North Korea since 1995. Most of that has been in the form of food and fuel in re­turn for the North’s agree­ment to re­frain from test­ing nu­clear weapons.

His com­ment, how­ever, over­looked that fact there has been vir­tu­ally no U.S. aid to North Korea since early 2009, when it re­sumed test­ing. Talks also have been in limbo for years. The last for­mal ne­go­ti­a­tion be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Py­ongyang on the nu­clear is­sue oc­curred in 2012.

Elim­i­nat­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of new ne­go­ti­a­tions could limit U.S. op­tions, and wthin hours of Trump’s tweet, De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis ap­peared to con­tra­dict him.

“We’re never out of diplo- matic so­lu­tions,” Mat­tis said as he met with his coun­ter­part from South Korea for talks on mil­i­tary readi­ness.

U.S.-al­lied South Korea sup­ports, in the­ory, greater diplo­matic out­reach to Py­ongyang. If war were to ever break out, mil­lions of South Kore­ans would im­me­di­ately find them­selves within range of the North’s large con­ven­tional weapons ar­se­nal.

In Geneva, Robert Wood, the U.S. am­bas­sador to the Con­fer­ence on Dis­ar­ma­ment, sought to ex­plain the pres­i­dent’s tweet.

Trump was ex­press­ing his frus­tra­tion at North Korea’s “dan­ger­ous and provoca­tive threats,” Wood said. But like Mat­tis, he said the U.S. re­mained will­ing to dis­cuss the North’s de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.

“The United States is open to try­ing to deal with this ques­tion diplo­mat­i­cally, but the other side is not,” Wood told re­porters.

It’s not the first time Trump has com­pli­cated his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s na­tional se­cu­rity mes­sage via so­cial me­dia.

Last mo n th, as aides worked to defuse ten­sions be­tween Qatar and its Arab neigh­bors, Trump blind­sided them by tweet­ing that Qatar funded ter­ror­ism. The monar­chy hosts 11,000 U.S. troops.

There has been vir­tu­ally no U.S. aid to North Korea since 2009.

ALEX WONG / GETTY IM­AGES

U.S. De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis (cen­ter) at­tends a meet­ing Wed­nes­day at the Pen­tagon with South Korean de­fense of­fi­cials.

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