Mil­i­tary ready for North Korea, but U.S. fo­cuses on sanc­tions.

Says North rhetoric out­shines abil­i­ties

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY CARLO MUNOZ AND DAN BOY­LAN ● Dave Boyer contributed to this re­port, which was based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

The top U.S. com­man­der in the Pa­cific re­gion told Congress that Amer­ica and its Asian-Pa­cific al­lies are try­ing to nav­i­gate their way through the in­creas­ingly ag­gres­sive threats is­sued by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the more lim­ited reach of his mil­i­tary forces.

Speak­ing hours be­fore the en­tire U.S. Se­nate took a bus trip for a rare White House clas­si­fied brief­ing on the rising ten­sions on the Korean Penin­sula, U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand chief Adm. Harry Har­ris told the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee the North’s nu­clear pro­grams re­main a worry, but that the U.S. and its al­lies have the re­sources to re­sist Py­ongyang’s con­ven­tional mil­i­tary at­tacks.

“I be­lieve that we have to look at North Korea as if Kim Jong-un will do what he says,” Adm. Har­ris said. “But … right now there is prob­a­bly a mis­match be­tween [his] rhetoric and his [com­bat] ca­pa­bil­ity.”

Specif­i­cally, the ad­mi­ral dis­missed the North’s re­cent boasts that it could sink the Carl Vin­son air car­rier bat­tle group that Pres­i­dent Trump had dis­patched to the wa­ters off North Korea in re­cent days fol­low­ing mil­i­tary ex­er­cises, a bal­lis­tic mis­sile test and ap­par­ent prepa­ra­tions for an­other nu­clear test by North Korea.

“If it flies, it will die if it’s fly­ing against the Carl Vin­son strike group,” the ad­mi­ral told the House panel.

But Adm. Har­ris also ac­knowl­edged to Wash­ing­ton state Rep. Adam Smith, the panel’s rank­ing Demo­crat, that he was not con­fi­dent “that North Korea is not go­ing to at­tack either South Korea or Ja­pan or the United States or our ter­ri­to­ries or our states — or parts of the United States — once they have the ca­pa­bil­ity.”

While the North’s weapons testing pro­grams have met with mul­ti­ple prob­lems, the ad­mi­ral added, Kim Jong-un “is not afraid to fail in public — and he fails a lot — but I think Edi­son failed 1,000 times be­fore he got the light bulb to work. So here we are.”

The White House said the Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice Build­ing brief­ing, which the pres­i­dent at­tended at the start but was con­ducted by Sec­re­tary of De­fense James Mat­tis, Sec­re­tary of State Rex W. Tiller­son and Direc­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Daniel Coats, out­lined plans to ramp up eco­nomic and diplo­matic pres­sure on North Korea to dis­man­tle its nu­clear weapons pro­gram and press China to rein in its ally. But the brief­ing also seemed de­signed to tamp down talk of im­mi­nent mil­i­tary ac­tion.

A White House of­fi­cial speak­ing on back­ground said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is work­ing to “iso­late” North Korea’s mis­sile and nu­clear pro­grams “from any sort of ex­ter­nal sup­port,” and noted that the mas­sive mil­i­tary pa­rade in Py­ongyang this month con­tained mil­i­tary hard­ware not made lo­cally. “Those com­po­nents, even the tires aren’t made in North Korea. It’s clear that all of us have a lot more to do to iso­late the regime and its ac­cess to the kinds of ma­te­ri­als and tech­nol­ogy and com­po­nents it needs to ad­vance those two very dan­ger­ous pro­grams,” the of­fi­cial said.

Other op­tions that have been floated in­clude re­des­ig­nat­ing North Korea as a state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism (it was taken off the list at the end of the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion) and pres­sur­ing other coun­tries to shut down North Korean em­bassies and other con­sulates around the world, State Depart­ment spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday.

Af­ter step­ping off the bus from the White House, Sen. John Mc­Cain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can and a lead­ing Se­nate hawk, said the threat from North Korea war­ranted such an un­usual gath­er­ing, but added, “I didn’t hear any­thing new be­cause I have al­ready been heav­ily briefed be­fore.”

Sen. Christo­pher A. Coons, Delaware Demo­crat, said the pre­sen­ta­tion was se­ri­ous and de­tailed, but said a “pre­emp­tive strike” against Py­ongyang was not dis­cussed in the clas­si­fied meet­ing.

The war or words is likely to in­crease later this week. On Friday at the United Na­tions, Mr. Tiller­son is sched­uled to chair a spe­cial meet­ing of the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil on North Korea, ac­cord­ing to a spokesman.

On Wednesday, a bat­tery of lon­grange, anti-bal­lis­tic U.S. mis­siles, dubbed the Ter­mi­nal High Alti­tude Area De­fense (THAAD), ar­rived in South Korea.

Beijing has re­peat­edly de­nounced the planned THAAD de­ploy­ment, claim­ing the weapon could un­der­mine China’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fense ef­forts or spy on China’s de­fense ca­pa­bil­i­ties. But of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton have re­peat­edly stressed the mis­sile de­fense sys­tem is defensive in na­ture and in­te­gral to curb­ing North Korea’s nu­clear am­bi­tions.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand Com­man­der Adm. Harry Har­ris Jr. told the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee North Korea’s brags over its nu­clear pro­gram do not meet re­al­ity.

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