Tough words hur­tle again from Trump

U.S. ‘locked and loaded,’ he warns Kim

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - COM­PILED BY DEMO­CRAT-GAZETTE STAFF FROM WIRE RE­PORTS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day is­sued an­other warn­ing of swift and force­ful re­tal­i­a­tion against nu­clear-armed North Korea, declar­ing the U.S. mil­i­tary “locked and loaded.” He said the iso­lated na­tion’s leader “will re­gret it fast” if he takes any ac­tion against U.S. ter­ri­to­ries and al­lies.

Trump started the morn­ing with Twit­ter mes­sages warn­ing of the readi­ness of the U.S. mil­i­tary, 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 has got­ten away with desta­bi­liz­ing the re­gion for too long.

“This man will not get away with what he’s do­ing,” the pres­i­dent said at his golf club in Bed­min­ster, N.J., where he planned to meet with mem­bers of his na­tional se­cu­rity team 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 — which North Korea has said is the tar­get of plans for a mis­sile at­tack — or against U.S. al­lies, “he will truly re­gret it and he will re­gret it fast.”

Af­ter meet­ing Fri­day with Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, just back from a trip to Asia, and Nikki Ha­ley, am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, Trump of­fered re­as­sur­ance to Guam.

“I feel that they will be very safe, be­lieve me,” Trump said, with Tiller­son and Ha­ley at his side.

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 orig­i­nal 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.” There has been lit­tle if any sign of mo­bi­liza­tion — such as the evac­u­a­tion of thou­sands of Amer­i­can civil­ians liv­ing in the re­gion — that might sug­gest prepa­ra­tions for a strike.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has said re­peat­edly that 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. Tiller­son has said the United States was open to talks if North Korea stopped the mis­sile tests that have rat­tled the re­gion in re­cent weeks.

The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported Fri­day that talks be­tween se­nior U.S. and North Korean diplo­mats con­tinue through a back chan­nel pre­vi­ously used to ne­go­ti­ate the re­turn of Amer­i­cans held in North Korea. The talks have ex­panded to ad­dress the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the re­la­tion­ship, ac­cord­ing to U.S. of­fi­cials and oth­ers briefed on the process. They weren’t au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the con­fi­den­tial ex­changes and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Trump on Fri­day re­fused to dis­cuss the diplo­matic con­tacts. “We don’t want to talk about progress, we don’t want to talk about back chan­nels,” Trump told re­porters.

Most im­por­tantly, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion hopes to per­suade China to use its in­flu­ence over North Korea’s econ­omy and po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship to re­solve the sit­u­a­tion for the United States, but an­a­lysts say noth­ing of the sort is likely to hap­pen, at the ear­li­est, un­til this fall’s Party Congress is com­pleted.

Chi­nese lead­ers, in­clud­ing the pres­i­dent, have gath­ered at Bei­daihe, a sea­side re­treat more than 170 miles east of Bei­jing, to map out a on­ceev­ery-five-years lead­er­ship reshuf­fle of the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party that is to take place at the Party Congress.

The For­eign Min­istry is on sum­mer break from its daily news con­fer­ences and posted a writ­ten state­ment Fri­day with a typ­i­cal plea for re­straint and di­a­logue.

China hopes that all par­ties would “speak and act with cau­tion and do more things that are con­ducive to de-es­ca­lat­ing the tense sit­u­a­tion and en­hanc­ing mu­tual trust among par­ties, rather than re­lapse into the old path of show­ing as­sertive­ness and es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions,” the state­ment said.

CON­CERNS OVER­SEAS

Trump, talk­ing to re­porters Fri­day, dis­missed the for­eign lead­ers, law­mak­ers and na­tional se­cu­rity ex­perts who in re­cent days have called his threats rash and 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.’”

Still, some for­eign lead­ers con­tin­ued to ex­press con­cerns over his rhetoric.

Rus­sia’s for­eign min­is­ter, Sergey Lavrov, es­ti­mated the risk of a mil­i­tary con­flict be­tween the U.S. and North Korea as “very high,” and said Moscow was deeply con­cerned.

“When you get close to the point of a fight, the one who is stronger and wiser should be the first to step back from the brink,” Lavrov said Fri­day.

“I don’t see a mil­i­tary so­lu­tion and I don’t think it’s called for,” said Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel. She de­clined to say whether Ger­many would stand with the U.S. in case of a mil­i­tary con­flict with North Korea and called on the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to con­tinue to ad­dress the is­sue.

“I think es­ca­lat­ing the rhetoric is the wrong an­swer,” Merkel added.

“Let her speak for Ger­many,” Trump said, when asked about the com­ment. “Per­haps she is re­fer­ring to Ger­many. She’s cer­tainly not re­fer­ring to the United States, that I can tell you.”

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

The three-way mu­tual se­cu­rity treaty with the United States and New Zealand “means that if Amer­ica is at­tacked, we will come to their aid,” he added. “If Aus­tralia is at­tacked, the Amer­i­cans will come to our aid. We are joined at the hip.”

Yet New Zealand would not com­mit. Prime Min­is­ter Bill English told news out­let NZN that he was fo­cus­ing on peace, but if there was mil­i­tary ac­tion against North Korea, his coun­try would “con­sider our con­tri­bu­tion on its mer­its.” For­eign Min­is­ter Gerry Brown­lee told re­porters: “Com­mit­ting to an ag­gres­sive re­sponse now — while en­cour­ag­ing all in­volved to avoid es­ca­la­tion — is not a po­si­tion we want to take.”

The lead­ers of France, the United States’ old­est ally, and Bri­tain, the United States’ clos­est ally, did not of­fer fresh com­ments on the ten­sions, but Jeremy Cor­byn, the left­ist leader of the op­po­si­tion La­bor Party in Bri­tain, said war would be cat­a­strophic.

“The idea that any­one can con­tem­plate us­ing nu­clear weapons at any stage against any­body is un­think­able,” Cor­byn, who has ad­vo­cated that Bri­tain give up its nu­clear weapons, told Sky News. “There is no such thing as an iso­lated nu­clear at­tack. It will kill mil­lions on both sides of the Korean bor­der and, of course, in neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.”

Some an­a­lysts ex­pect the ten­sions be­tween the U.S. and North Korea to es­ca­late in the com­ing days as both North and South Korea cel­e­brate the Aug. 15 an­niver­sary of the end of Ja­pan’s oc­cu­pa­tion of the Korean Penin­sula.

The U.S. and South Korea are due to start joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises from Aug. 21, while Ja­panese and U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel have be­gun drills on Ja­pan’s north­ern is­land of Hokkaido that run through Aug. 28.

AP

North Korean men read news­pa­pers dis­played on the street Fri­day in Py­ongyang, where, de­spite ten­sions and talk of war, life in the cap­i­tal re­mained calm.

AP/PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, stand­ing (from left) with Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, U.N. Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser H.R. McMaster at Trump’s golf club in Bed­min­ster, N.J., speaks to re­porters Fri­day. “This man will not get away with what he’s do­ing,” Trump said about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, say­ing Kim has got­ten away with desta­bi­liz­ing the re­gion for too long.

nwadg.com/ northko­rea

On the Web North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram

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