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Tillerson Says China Asked North Korea to Stop Nuclear Tests

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that China has threatened to impose sanctions on North Korea if it conducts further nuclear tests.

“We know that China is in communications with the regime in Pyongyang,” Tillerson said on Fox News Channel. “They confirmed to us that they had requested the regime conduct no further nuclear test.”

Tillerson said China also told the U.S. that it had informed North Korea “that if they did conduct further nuclear tests, China would be taking sanctions actions on their own.” (Read more from “Tillerson Says China Asked North Korea to Stop Nuclear Tests” HERE)

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What next with North Korea?

There was a moment at Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s White House briefing Monday that was significant. Asked by a reporter about North Korea’s missile launch last weekend, Spicer said the administration was aware of the launch and that “it failed.” End of story. Next question, please.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Conservative foreign secretary in Britain, might provide an explanation for Spicer’s tight-lipped response. Rifkind told the BBC Sunday that “…there is a very strong belief that the U.S. — through cyber methods — has been successful on several occasions in interrupting these sorts of tests and making them fail.”

At present, there are no direct links to a cyber attack on North Korea from the U.S., but that hasn’t stopped media outlets from reporting the possibility of one.

American Actions

Last month, the U.S. began sending the first elements of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system to South Korea, though China opposed the move. When it becomes operational will it, along with cyber attacks, be enough to deter North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un from conducting new missile tests capable of hitting the U.S. with a nuclear warhead, which he has repeatedly threatened to do? Kim has said he will conduct missile tests “weekly” in response to U.S. threats.

On a recent visit to South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence vowed that “the era of strategic patience is over,” a strategy adopted by the Obama administration to explain its long-term view on global conflict resolution. Pence added, “North Korea would do well not to test (President Trump’s) resolve — or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.”

How much of this is bluster on both sides no one can say for sure. After President Trump’s meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping, there is some optimism that China might be able to exert sufficient pressure on its unpredictable ally to pull back from a direct confrontation with the U.S. Of greatest concern for the Trump administration, in addition to South Korean civilians who would likely suffer massive casualties should there be a North Korean invasion, are the more than 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. Kim has threatened to attack them and flood South Korea with his ground forces.

What’s the Goal?

What is our goal with North Korea? Is it regime change? If so, who and what would follow if Kim is ousted? Kim, his father and grandfather have established such an atmosphere of complete control and cult-like obedience with North Koreans who have been cut off from all outside information that it is hard to predict how the people would react. It’s a good bet political prisoners in North Korea’s prison camps would be overjoyed if the regime fell and they were set free.

Humanrights.gov estimates between “80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners and family members are detained in these camps, where starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape, forced abortion and infanticide are commonplace.”

Those who wish to hold off on further challenges to North Korea must ask themselves a question. Given the erratic behavior of Kim Jong-Un and his bellicose promises to strike the U.S. with a nuclear missile, is it better to take him seriously and stop him now, or wait until he has the capability to carry out his threat?

Last week, Hawaii’s House public safety committee passed a resolution calling for the state’s defense agency to repair hundreds of fallout shelters that have not been updated since the 1980s and restock them with medical supplies, food and water.

We haven’t yet reached the tension level of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which put the United States in direct confrontation with the Soviet Union and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, but the current tension between the U.S. and North Korea could quickly spiral downward.

Will the “peace through strength” doctrine of the Reagan administration, which suggested that military power could help preserve peace, work today? During the Reagan years, Soviet leaders were not unstable, as Kim Jong-Un appears to be, and a nuclear confrontation was avoided. Perhaps a demonstration of what the U.S can do with cyber warfare, a missile defense system and help from China will be enough.

One can only hope. (For more from the author of “What next with North Korea?” please click HERE)

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White House Turns up Heat, but Rejects ‘Red Lines’ for North Korea

Both the Trump administration and North Korea are ratcheting up statements about a potential conflict.

“President [Donald] Trump has changed the equation. We don’t know what he will do,” said Fred Fleitz, a senior vice president for the Center for Security Policy, a conservative national security think tank. “If there is a strike, shooting down missiles would be proportional. But I don’t think we will see a strike on missile sites.”

When visiting South Korea on Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said “the era of strategic patience is over.” This came days after the North Korean state-run media asserted the country is “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.”

On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the White House was unlikely to draw a “red line” on North Korea.

“Drawing red lines hasn’t worked well in the past. He holds his cards close to the vest and I think you’re not going to see him telegraphing how he’s going to respond to any military or any other situation going forth,” Spicer said. “The action he took in Syria shows, when appropriate, the president takes decisive action.”

President Barack Obama famously said that if Syrian dictator Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on his own people, it would be a “red line,” but when Assad did so in 2013, Obama took no action.

Trump’s policy marks a stark change in attitude from the Obama administration, Fleitz noted.

“North Korea will eventually have missiles pointed at U.S. bases, in Japan or elsewhere,” Fleitz said. “North Korean nuclear weapons have two purposes, deterrence and extortion. We have bought them off for years, then they break their commitments and we buy them off again for a little while, while their technology gets more and more advanced. This cycle can’t continue.”

The failed missile launch was rumored to be sabotaged by the U.S., but Fleitz said he thinks it more likely demonstrates that even while North Korean technology is advancing, it’s still inadequate.

“The failure of the missile test is a failure of their science and engineering. It’s hard to build an arsenal with stolen and borrowed parts,” Fleitz said. “Ph.D.s from MIT aren’t running to North Korea. There isn’t a lot of job security. If your project fails, you’ll be executed.”

A strike group of Navy warships was deployed toward North Korea. The USS Carl Vinson, which is part of the strike group, is capable of carrying 90 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

Spicer noted that China has stopped importing North Korean coal and has signaled further economic actions after Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“The results of [the meeting], I think, is you’ve seen China playing a much more active role in North Korea, both politically and economically, that they can continue to apply pressure to achieve results,” Spicer said. “I think we’re going to continue to urge China to continue to exert that influence to get better results.”

China shouldn’t be trusted this time around, said Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at The Heritage Foundation.

“A succession of U.S. presidents all thought China would take action against North Korea, but after one to four months of action, China would always back off,” Klingner told The Daily Signal.

He said “giving China another chance” has too often led to not enforcing the law and existing sanctions.

Klingner said he has concerns about the new U.S. posture on North Korea. For instance, a strike could prompt North Korea to strike South Korea immediately.

“Many people believe it is useful to put pressure not only on North Korea but also on China,” he said. “Others, including myself, worry this could be unnecessary provocation. South Korea is having a presidential election now and the top debate question is how will the candidates prevent the U.S. from a pre-emptive attack on North Korea. It may be a negotiating tactic but a very high stakes one.” (For more from the author of “White House Turns up Heat, but Rejects ‘Red Lines’ for North Korea” please click HERE)

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Trump Warns North Korea: ‘Gotta Behave’

A day after a failed North Korean missile test, U.S. President Donald Trump had a message Monday for the North’s ruler: ‘Gotta behave.” At the same time, Vice President Mike Pence warned at the Korean Demilitarized Zone that America’s “era of strategic patience is over.”

Keeping up the verbal volleying, North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador accused the United States of turning the Korean peninsula into “the world’s biggest hotspot” and creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.”

Pence’s visit to the tense DMZ dividing North and South Korea came at the start of a 10-day trip to Asia and underscored U.S. commitment. It allowed the vice president to gaze at North Korean soldiers afar and stare directly across a border marked by razor wire. (Read more from “Trump Warns North Korea: ‘Gotta Behave'” HERE)

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The Possible Upsides of Korea Crisis

Not only is the current showdown with North Korea unlikely to lead to a military conflict, it is likely that all the countries involved will walk away believing they have achieved something for their side. In fact, it could be the perfect storm of crisis diplomacy that’s a win-win for everybody—for now.

Pyongyang gets the world’s attention. Kim family diplomacy requires that the world see its regime as a dangerous, unpredictable menace. Otherwise, why would anybody care to deal with the world’s poorest nation at the far end of the planet?

Usually the annual military parade gets no more attention than a joke on the late-night shows. This time around, Kim Jong Un’s half-serious salute got worldwide coverage. The question for Kim is how to parlay fear-mongering into some kind of strategic advantage.

Seoul and Tokyo got a big reassurance of commitment from Washington, as the U.S. rushed to show both that we’d honor our obligations to mutual defense. Nothing says we care like an armada of ships and a fleet of nuclear-capable bombers.

Beijing used the crisis to establish a rapport with the new U.S. president. Rather than stiff-arm President Donald Trump or play rope-a-dope, President Xi Jinping adopted a let’s make-a-deal attitude.

Washington got to look strong, too. In a little over a week, Trump met with top foreign leaders, including Xi, dealt with the situation in Korea, and handled a crisis in Syria. For a fledgling administration led by a president with little foreign policy chops, that was a damn decent performance.

That Trump navigated through the crisis, so far, so well is a hopeful indicator that he will deliver a mature and responsible foreign policy. Indeed, signs point in that direction.

By giving all the players involved enough space to save face, Washington helped defuse rather than escalate the crisis.

The question is: Where do we go from here?

Getting through the day without starting World War III doesn’t solve the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea. The White House needs a sustained responsible policy. The Chinese are not going to solve the problem. Kim is never going to voluntarily give up his nukes.

Just talking will get us nowhere. What is needed is a serious long-term plan that might create future opportunities for de-escalation, something Heritage Foundation expert Bruce Klingner was pressing for even before the crisis started.

The good news is that Trump has weathered the challenge so far. The administration is following the right playbook: maximum pressure but not regime change.

But there is more to be done.

For sure, the U.S. needs to send clearer signals that it is not planning to ratchet up tensions.

While the announced part of the next-step policy seems good, the sanctions portion, including enforcing existing U.S. law, might well be put on hold pending action by China. It’s a problem that China always underperforms on its promises. Trump should not wait long for Beijing to deliver before really turning up the heat on sanctions. (For more from the author of “The Possible Upsides of Korea Crisis” please click HERE)

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North Korea Vows ‘Most Ruthless Blow’ on United States

North Korea is ready to deliver the “most ruthless blow” if provoked by the United States, its ambassador to Moscow said overnight, after US President Donald Trump pledged to keep building up defences against Pyongyang.

“Our army has already said that if there will be even the smallest provocation from the United States during exercises, we are ready to deliver the most ruthless blow,” Interfax news agency quoted ambassador Kim Hyong-Jun as saying . . .

Mr Trump on Wednesday pledged to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the US would “continue to strengthen its ability to deter and defend itself and its allies with the full range of its military capabilities,” a day after Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

North Korea’s foreign ministry on Monday assailed Washington for its tough talk and for an ongoing joint military exercise with South Korea and Japan which Pyongyang sees as a dress rehearsal for invasion.

The “reckless actions” are driving the tense situation on the Korean peninsula “to the brink of a war”, a ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the official KCNA news agency. (Read more from “North Korea Vows ‘Most Ruthless Blow’ on United States” HERE)

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Ex-CIA Director Says North Korea May Be Prepping to Kill 90% of Americans

The mainstream media, and some officials who should know better, continue to allege North Korea does not yet have capability to deliver on its repeated threats to strike the U.S. with nuclear weapons. False reassurance is given to the American people that North Korea has not “demonstrated” that it can miniaturize a nuclear warhead small enough for missile delivery, or build a reentry vehicle for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of penetrating the atmosphere to blast a U.S. city. . .

[But] North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has been photographed posing with what appears to be a genuine miniaturized nuclear warhead for ballistic missiles. And North Korea does, in fact, have two classes of ICBMs—the road mobile KN-08 and KN-14—which both appear to be equipped with sophisticated reentry vehicles.

Even if it were true that North Korea does not yet have nuclear missiles, their “Dear Leader” could deliver an atomic bomb hidden on a freighter sailing under a false flag into a U.S. port, or hire their terrorist allies to fly a nuclear 9/11 suicide mission across the unprotected border with Mexico. In this scenario, populous port cities like New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, or big cities nearest the Mexican border, like San Diego, Phoenix, Austin, and Santa Fe, would be most at risk. . .

In February and March of 2015, former senior national security officials of the Reagan and Clinton administrations warned that North Korea should be regarded as capable of delivering by satellite a small nuclear warhead, specially designed to make a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack against the United States. According to the Congressional EMP Commission, a single warhead delivered by North Korean satellite could blackout the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for over a year—killing 9 of 10 Americans by starvation and societal collapse.

Two North Korean satellites, the KMS-3 and KMS-4, presently orbit over the U.S. on trajectories consistent with surprise EMP attack. (For more from the author of “Ex-CIA Director Says North Korea May Be Prepping to Kill 90% of Americans” please click HERE)

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Tillerson: No ‘Strategic Patience’ With North Korea, Maybe War

On his way to China, Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, stopped off in South Korea.

During a visit to the demilitarized border, Tillerson dissed the Obama administration. He said its policy of “strategic patience” has run its course and all “all of the options are on the table.”

Tillerson said “obviously if North Korea takes actions that threatens South Korean forces or our own forces, that would be met with (an) appropriate response. If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action that option is on the table.”

Trump sent out a tweet to underscore the new policy. He went so far as to take a swipe at China, already irritated by the US position on its activity in the South China Sea.

It looks like the Trump administration is dead serious about starting a war with North Korea if it continues to build and test missiles and nukes.

Although it is probably unlikely Trump will be able to start a war with North Korea—additional draconian sanctions seem more likely—the residents of Seoul, 35 miles from the border, might want to prepare a go-bag. North Korea has tens of thousands of missiles aimed at them. (For more from the author of “Tillerson: No ‘Strategic Patience’ With North Korea, Maybe War” please click HERE)

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North Korea, Malaysia Ban Each Other’s Citizens From Leaving

North Korea barred Malaysians from exiting its borders and Malaysia followed suit Tuesday, turning ordinary citizens into pawns in the diplomatic battle surrounding the investigation into the bizarre death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother.

The tit-for-tat directives come as relations between the two countries disintegrate over the poisoning of Kim Jong Nam in a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13.

“This is way out of normal diplomatic practice,” Lalit Mansingh, a New Delhi-based scholar and longtime top Indian diplomat, said of North Korea’s decision. He could not recall anything similar in recent years, where so many everyday citizens were pulled into a diplomatic standoff. (Read more from “North Korea, Malaysia Ban Each Other’s Citizens From Leaving” HERE)

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Mystery Deepens in North Korea Princeling Assassination

What do we really know about the sudden death of an exiled North Korean princeling? Aside from heated media speculation and an instant “it’s-gotta-be-Pyongyang” reaction from Seoul’s spy agency, not much.

As the investigation continues, the mystery of just what happened to the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as he waited for a flight in a Malaysian airport only deepens. Was Kim Jong Nam poisoned? Are the two female suspects trained killers or dupes? How can we be sure that North Korea, which seems the obvious culprit, was even involved?

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service — no friend to Pyongyang — and eager reporters across Asia have assembled a dramatic, almost cinematic profile of the last hour of Kim’s life. But there’s still a surfeit of unanswered questions. (Read more from “Mystery Deepens in North Korea Princeling Assassination” HERE)

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