Trump warns North Korea of ‘fire and fury’ over nukes

Re­port: Py­ongyang bomb can fit in­side mis­sile to hit U.S.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY GUY TAY­LOR AND S.A. MILLER

Con­cern of an armed clash over North Korea’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram reached new heights Tues­day as an an­gry Pres­i­dent Trump warned that Py­ongyang could soon face “fire and fury like the world has never seen” amid re­ports that the North has man­aged to build a nu­clear bomb small enough to fit in­side an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile.

Mr. Trump’s out­burst, which brought both crit­i­cism and praise from Capi­tol Hill, fol­lowed the rev­e­la­tion that Ja­panese an­a­lysts and at least one U.S. in­tel­li­gence agency had con­cluded that the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was pro­ceed­ing much faster than pre­vi­ously thought in ob­tain­ing a nu­clear weapon ca­pa­ble of hit­ting much of the U.S. main­land as well as key Amer­i­can al­lies across East Asia.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials sought to calm nerves about the sit­u­a­tion by as­sert­ing that a Wash­ing­ton Post news re­port about a con­fi­den­tial Defense In­tel­li­gence Agency anal­y­sis on North Korea’s progress to­ward minia­tur­iza­tion had not re­vealed any­thing that Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties haven’t been aware of for months.

“This is just the lat­est drip of al­leged clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion about the North’s pro­gram,” said one in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity with The Wash­ing­ton Times and re­fused to con­firm or deny the ac­cu­racy of the DIA anal­y­sis.

While the DIA and the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence de­clined to com­ment on The Post’s re­port, a sep­a­rate as­sess­ment re­leased Tues­day by Ja­pan’s Defense Min­istry con­cluded it was “pos­si­ble that North Korea has achieved the minia­tur­iza­tion of nu­clear weapons.”

Mr. Trump’s in­tense rhetoric mir­rored in a way the of­ten apoc­a­lyp­tic,

bel­liger­ent tone North Korea has long used to threaten its neigh­bors, height­en­ing fears that the es­ca­lat­ing rhetor­i­cal war could lead one side or the other to mis­cal­cu­late.

While not di­rectly re­spond­ing to Mr. Trump, Py­ongyang voiced de­fi­ance again Tues­day to tight­en­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions and a se­ries of re­cent U.S. mil­i­tary moves, warn­ing its cit­i­zens in a state­ment that “packs of wolves are com­ing in at­tack to stran­gle a na­tion.” The North also said it was “care­fully ex­am­in­ing” a plan to at­tack Guam, the U.S. ter­ri­tory in the western Pa­cific that in­cludes a ma­jor Amer­i­can air base.

While the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has just suc­cess­fully pushed for tougher United Na­tions sanc­tions on the iso­lated North Korean econ­omy, Mr. Trump was clearly frus­trated when he spoke to re­porters while on a sum­mer work­ing va­ca­tion at his pri­vate golf course in New Jer­sey.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” the pres­i­dent said, speak­ing be­fore a briefing on the na­tion’s opi­oid abuse cri­sis. “They will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen be­fore.”

Sev­eral prom­i­nent Democrats — and at least one key Repub­li­can — crit­i­cized the pres­i­dent for in­flam­ing a del­i­cate sit­u­a­tion with his com­ments.

“That kind of rhetoric, I’m not sure how it helps,” Se­nate Armed Ser­vice Com­mit­tee Chair­man John McCain told an Ari­zona ra­dio sta­tion.

“I take ex­cep­tion to the pres­i­dent’s words be­cause you’ve got to be sure you can do what you say you’re go­ing to do,” the Ari­zona Repub­li­can said.

Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the Se­nate Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence, said “there is no ques­tion that North Korea is seek­ing to add a nu­clear war­head to an ICBM ca­pa­ble of reach­ing the United States.”

Al­though the threat has clearly grown more grave, said the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, the U.S. ap­proach should be to diplo­mat­i­cally “en­gage North Korea in a high-level di­a­logue with­out any pre­con­di­tions.”

“What this tells me is that our pol­icy of iso­lat­ing North Korea has not worked,” said Ms. Fe­in­stein, who as­serted that “Pres­i­dent Trump is not help­ing the sit­u­a­tion with his bom­bas­tic com­ments.”

New clar­ity

But some said Mr. Trump, who re­cently de­clared the “era of strate­gic pa­tience with North Korea is over,” pro­vided a brac­ing clar­ity in the face of con­tin­ued provo­ca­tions and slights from Py­ongyang. North Korea’s neigh­bors, in­clud­ing crit­i­cal ally China, are now on no­tice of the new U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to act.

If the news re­ports are true, the claim about North Korean nu­clear weapon minia­tur­iza­tion “un­doubt­edly rep­re­sents the great­est cri­sis since the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis,” Rep. Dar­rell E. Issa, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, told CNN.

The de­vel­op­ments came to light just days af­ter the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil slapped its tough­est sanc­tions yet on North Korea as pun­ish­ment for a se­ries of re­cent tests of a bal­lis­tic mis­sile that could be used to de­liver a nu­clear weapon.

De­spite the in­creas­ing tempo of such tests in re­cent years, U.S. an­a­lysts are uncer­tain about the North Korea’s abil­ity to cou­ple such a mis­sile with a nu­clear de­vice.

A suc­cess­ful minia­tur­iza­tion of a nu­clear bomb would sig­nal a ma­jor ad­vance by Py­ongyang to­ward the de­vel­op­ment of nu­clear-armed in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles ca­pa­ble of reach­ing the U.S. main­land.

The Post ar­ti­cle, cit­ing uniden­ti­fied U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, claimed the DIA’s con­fi­den­tial anal­y­sis of the sit­u­a­tion was com­pleted last month and that the agency an­a­lysts also cal­cu­lated that North Korea has up to 60 nu­clear weapons, more than dou­ble the num­ber in in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ments.

Alarm in Wash­ing­ton over Py­ongyang’s pur­suit of a nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity in­ten­si­fied af­ter the North con­ducted two tests of in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles last month, both reach­ing far­ther than any pre­vi­ous North Korean mis­sile had been ca­pa­ble of fly­ing.

It was not clear if Mr. Trump’s blunt com­ments sig­nal a ma­jor diplo­matic or mil­i­tary shift on North Korea. So far, the White House has em­braced the long-elu­sive ap­proach of re­cruit­ing China to con­tain Py­ongyang and curb its weapons pro­grams. Sec­re­tary of State Rex W. Tiller­son, on a just-con­cluded trip to South­east Asia, took a no­tice­ably more re­strained tone, say­ing the U.S. wasn’t seek­ing regime change in Py­ongyang and was open to talks if North Korea halted its nu­clear pro­grams and bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests.

While the ad­min­is­tra­tion has praised the U.N. sanc­tions and promised to push hard on re­gional pow­ers in­clud­ing Rus­sia and China, se­nior White House of­fi­cials have also spent re­cent days stress­ing what a po­ten­tially game-chang­ing de­vel­op­ment it would be if Py­ongyang was found to have op­er­a­ble nu­clear ICBMs.

Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser H.R. McMaster said in an in­ter­view with MSNBC on Sat­ur­day that the pres­i­dent has deemed it in­tol­er­a­ble for North Korea to have nu­clear-armed ICBMs that could threaten the U.S. main­land and that the ad­min­is­tra­tion had to pro­vide all op­tions to pre­vent such a de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing a mil­i­tary op­tion.

Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Daniel Coats told Congress in May that North Korea’s Mr. Kim is “in­tent on prov­ing he has the ca­pa­bil­ity to strike the U.S. main­land with nu­clear weapons” and al­luded to U.S. in­tel­li­gence that Py­ongyang had al­ready achieved minia­tur­iza­tion of a war­head.

Specif­i­cally, Mr. Coats, whose re­marks were part of the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s an­nual World­wide Threat As­sess­ment, said Mr. Kim had been “pho­tographed be­side a nu­clear war­head de­sign and mis­sile air­frames to show that North Korea has war­heads small enough to fit on a mis­sile.”

The anti-war group Peace Ac­tion also crit­i­cized Mr. Trump’s com­ments. “Yet again, the pres­i­dent is count­ing on danger­ous threats of mil­i­tary force to con­vince North Korea to back away from its goal of field­ing a nu­clear ar­se­nal ca­pa­ble of strik­ing the United States,” the group’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Jon Rain­wa­ter, said in a state­ment.


EX­PLO­SIVE RE­MARKS: Pres­i­dent Trump’s out­burst in re­sponse to North Korea’s re­ported nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties brought both crit­i­cism and praise from Capi­tol Hill.


North Korea voiced de­fi­ance again Tues­day by say­ing it was “care­fully ex­am­in­ing” a plan to at­tack Guam, the U.S. ter­ri­tory in the western Pa­cific.

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