Pres­i­dent at odds with stance of cab­i­net

Tweet fol­lows calls from Py­ongyang for more launches

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Jill Colvin and Matthew Pennington

Trump says talk­ing with North Korea is “not the an­swer;” De­fense sec­re­tary backs diplo­matic so­lu­tion.

WASH­ING­TON — After Py­ongyang upped the stakes in its stand­off with Wash­ing­ton by call­ing for more weapons launches in the Pa­cific, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Wed­nes­day that “talk­ing is not the an­swer” when it comes to North Korea.

Trump’s morn­ing tweet fol­lowed a North Korean mis­sile test Tues­day that flew over Ja­pan, a close Amer­i­can ally. But his com­ment con­tra­dicted state­ments from his Cab­i­net of­fi­cials. De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis on Wed­nes­day told re­porters, “We’re never out of diplo­matic so­lu­tions,” and Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son had hinted at pos­si­ble di­rect talks with North Korea.

Trump’s tweet re­turned to a fa­mil­iar theme: the fail­ings of past U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tions to halt North Korea’s weapons de­vel­op­ment over the past quar­ter-cen­tury.

The North last month tested for the first time a long-range mis­sile, putting it closer to its goal of pos­ing a di­rect nu­clear threat to the U.S. main­land.

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

Trump’s tweet did not spell out what he meant by “ex­tor­tion.”

The White House did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to ques­tions.

North Korea has in the past tem­po­rar­ily halted nu­clear de­vel­op­ment when the U.S. and oth­ers pro­vided food aid or other types of com­pen­sa­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the Con­gres­sional Re­search Ser­vice, be­tween 1995 and 2008, the United States pro­vided North Korea with more than $1.3 bil­lion in as­sis­tance: slightly more than 50 per­cent for food aid and about 40 per­cent for en­ergy as­sis­tance.

But since early 2009, the U.S. has pro­vided vir­tu­ally no aid to North Korea. The last for­mal talks be­tween the two sides on the North’s nu­clear pro­gram were in 2012.

The North hasn’t made de­mands for aid, at least pub­licly, since Trump came into of­fice. In­stead, it has fo­cused on fin­ish­ing its decades-long ef­fort to mas­ter the tech­nol­ogy for fit­ting a nu­clear war­head on a mis­sile that can strike the U.S., which it views as es­sen­tial for its na­tional de­fense.

Trump’s as­sess­ment about the need for di­a­logue also ap­pears at odds with his top diplo­mat, Tiller­son, who had in re­cent weeks been soft­en­ing the con­di­tions for a pos­si­ble for­mal di­a­logue with Py­ongyang. The U.S. also has been main­tain­ing an in­for­mal diplo­matic chan­nel with North Korea.

At the Pen­tagon, dur­ing a photo op­por­tu­nity with his South Korean coun­ter­part, Mat­tis said the U.S. re­mains fo­cused on diplo­macy as well as mil­i­tary readi­ness. Amid the height­ened ten­sions on the di­vided Korean Penin­sula, the U.S. and South Korea have been con­duct­ing an­nual mil­i­tary drills.

“We con­tinue to work to­gether,” Mat­tis said.

On Wed­nes­day, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for more weapons launches tar­get­ing the Pa­cific Ocean to ad­vance his coun­try’s abil­ity to con­tain Guam, state me­dia said. The U.S. ter­ri­tory is home to key U.S. mil­i­tary bases that North Korea finds threat­en­ing.

The Korean Cen­tral News Agency said the launch that over­flew Ja­pan was of an in­ter­me­di­at­erange Hwa­song-12 mis­sile, which the North first suc­cess­fully tested in May and threat­ened this month to fire into wa­ters near Guam. It de­scribed the launch as a “mus­cle-flex­ing” coun­ter­mea­sure to the U.S.-South Korean mil­i­tary drills that con­clude Thurs­day.

U.S. of­fi­cials an­nounced Wed­nes­day that they had con­ducted a mis­sile de­fense test that re­sulted in the suc­cess­ful in­ter­cept of a medium-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile off the coast of Hawaii. The test was con­ducted by the Mis­sile De­fense Agency and U.S. Navy sailors.

ALEX WONG/GETTY

De­fense chief Jim Mat­tis, left, seen with South Korean coun­ter­part Song Young-Moo, em­pha­sizes diplo­macy.

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