Trump officials weigh plan to interdict North Korean ships
The White House is weighing a proposal to create a “coalition of the willing” among international navies to interdict ships suspected of violating U.N. sanctions on supplying North Korea, according to sources close to the Trump administration.
Reports surfaced last week of an administration plan with key Asian allies that could deploy U.S. Coast Guard forces to search vessels in the Asia-Pacific. The Washington Times has learned the proposal now also is seeking China’s support for the interdictions.
Michael Pillsbury, a Mandarin-speaking Pentagon consultant who advised President Trump’s transition team, said a key element of the proposal centers on expanding the State Department’s socalled “Proliferation Security Initiative,” which Beijing “showed interest in but never signed up for” when it was created by the George W. Bush administration back in 2003.
The move comes amid a flurry of speculation over the prospect of a diplomatic dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang after South Korea’s president said over the weekend that a North Korean delegation to the just-concluded Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, had expressed openness to direct talks with the United States.
President Trump has responded cautiously to the overture, saying any direct talks could only take place “under the right conditions.”
In the past, the North Koreans have said they’d participate in talks only if the U.S. and South Korea halt all joint military exercises, while Washington has said any talks must be aimed at the total elimination of the North’s suspect nuclear programs.
While the U.S. put a pause on joint military exercises during the Olympics,, the Pentagon said last Monday that U.S. and South Korean military commanders are in the process of zeroing in on date for the joint drills to resume.
Regional tensions have soared over North Korea’s unexpectedly rapid progress on ballistic missile and nuclear tests during the past year, despite increasingly aggressive rhetoric from Mr. Trump.
U.S. intelligence has said Pyongyang is moving closer to developing nucleartipped intercontinental ballistic missiles that could threaten the U.S. homeland.
Mr. Trump has vowed to use force if necessary to prevent the North Korean development of such missiles.