Trump of­fi­cials weigh plan to in­ter­dict North Korean ships

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY GUY TAY­LOR

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.

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