Posts Tagged ‘fire and fury’

Steve Bannon Interview Raises New Questions About His Standing at White House

August 18, 2017

Less than three weeks ago, a similar interview with Anthony Scaramucci resulted in his ouster

Updated Aug. 17, 2017 6:19 p.m. ET

Steve Bannon’s standing as White House chief strategist took a hit after a liberal political magazine published an extended interview in which he referred to white supremacist groups as “clowns,” said President Donald Trump’s pro-business advisers were “wetting themselves” and—contrary to the president’s public positions—dismissed the potential for military action in North Korea.

People close to Mr. Bannon were concerned Thursday…


Bannon’s interview: A blunder or intentional ploy?


  • Some sources say Steve Bannon intentionally spoke to the American Prospect
  • The remarkable comments were reminiscent of what got Bannon into hot water earlier this year

Bridgewater, New Jersey (CNN) — White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is privately offering shifting and conflicting explanations for the strikingly candid interview that could further imperil his already shaky standing inside the West Wing.


Sources close to Bannon first said the chief strategist did not know he was being interviewed when he spoke over the phone with Robert Kuttner, the co-editor of The American Prospect. But the same sources now say the chief strategist granted the interview as part of a ploy to distract from the criticism President Donald Trump has been facing over his response to the violence in Charlottesville sparked by a white supremacist rally.
“Bannon knew full well this would distract from criticism,” a source familiar with Bannon’s thinking said.
A second source familiar with Bannon’s thinking said the chief strategist was trying “to divert attention from Charlottesville criticism” by offering the controversial comments to the American Prospect reporter, knowing the comments would grip headlines.
Bannon has declined to comment and did not respond to CNN’s inquiry asking about the conflicting accounts.
Bannon’s remarks may have served to momentarily divert attention from the President’s controversial response to the violence in Charlottesville, but his comments also offered damaging insight into the divisions inside the Trump administration and showed the chief strategist undercutting the President on the most significant national security issue facing the administration.
While Trump promised to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea should the rogue regime continue to threaten or attempt to strike the US or its allies, Bannon dismissed North Korea as a “sideshow” to the larger economic conflicts between the US and China and argued there is “no military solution” to the crisis.
The remarkable comments were reminiscent of what got Bannon into hot water earlier this year, when a narrative began to set in that he was effectively running the White House.
Bannon also offered unprompted criticism of fellow advisers to the president, including National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, whom Bannon placed among those he is fighting “every day” to push a harder line on international trade issues.
Those comments in particular could land Bannon in trouble with the President and his recently-installed chief of staff John Kelly, who just two weeks earlier ousted White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci after he badmouthed colleagues in vulgar terms to The New Yorker.
Scaramucci later said he did not believe his conversation with The New Yorker reporter had been on the record, and later conceded he made a mistake.
Robert Kuttner, the Prospect editor who interviewed Bannon on Tuesday, wrote in his article that “the question of whether the phone call was on or off the record never came up.”
“This is also puzzling, since Steve Bannon is not exactly Bambi when it comes to dealing with the press. He’s probably the most media-savvy person in America,” Kuttner wrote.
Bannon, the former Breitbart chief, is known for being particular media savvy and — like other experienced Washington hands — knows that all conversations with reporters are on the record unless an agreement is reached beforehand.

Top U.S. General to Meet South Korean Leader Amid Tensions

August 13, 2017


By Heejin Kim

August 13, 2017, 2:27 AM EDT August 13, 2017, 5:00 AM EDT
  • Dunford to meet South Korean President Moon on Monday
  • Visit follows week of threats by Pyongyang and Washington
Joseph Dunford Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The U.S.’s top general plans to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday, just days after his counterpart Donald Trump said military options against North Korea were “locked and loaded.”

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with senior military officials along with Moon, according to an official with South Korea’s Blue House who asked not to be identified. He will head to China next on the previously scheduled visit, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing an unidentified military official.

Dunford’s Asia visit comes as fears grow that a war of words between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will lead to a miscalculation that sparks an actual military conflict. In a call with Trump on Saturday in Asia, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for all sides to maintain restraint and avoid inflammatory comments.

The U.S. Pacific Command referred all questions on Dunford’s schedule to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nobody at the office picked up the phone after regular working hours. A tweet from the joint chiefs on Sunday showed him arriving at Yokota Air Base in Japan.

The U.S. hasn’t taken any public steps to prepare for hostilities such as evacuating Americans from Seoul, which is within range of North Korean artillery, or moving ships, aircraft or troops into position for an imminent response. The U.S. has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.

Read more on signs that a war may be coming

Following Trump’s vow to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea, Kim’s regime threatened to fire four Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan into waters near Guam, home to U.S. military bases in the region. The U.S. and its allies warned Kim against such a move, and Japan deployed four Patriot missile interceptors into the western part of the country.

Some analysts expect further escalation in the coming days as both North and South Korea celebrate the Aug. 15 anniversary of the end of Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula, and the latter conducts joint military exercises with the U.S. from Aug. 21. Japan is also holding annual military drills with the U.S. over the next few weeks.

North Korea’s state-run media on Sunday condemned the planned military drills and said the U.S. is “letting out dangerous war rhetoric.” The Korean Central News Agency added that Trump’s “wild remarks” are causing concern and anger in South Korea.

Moon’s administration has pushed to start talks with North Korea even while looking to strengthen its defenses after North Korea test-fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July. On Sunday, Deputy Unification Minister Chun Haesung said South Korea was seeking to ease tensions and the door for dialogue with North Korea was still open.

‘Die Over There’

Recent comments from Trump have raised concerns that the U.S. would be willing to accept collateral damage among its Asian allies to protect the American homeland.

Dunford said last month that it was “unimaginable” to allow North Korea to develop the capability to strike a U.S. city with a nuclear weapon. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, told NBC News that Trump told him that “if thousands die, they’re going to die over there.”

More recently, Defense Secretary James Mattis has sought to reassure U.S. partners in the region. He said on Thursday that the U.S. works closely with its allies to ensure that any military response wouldn’t be unilateral, warning that the impact of a conflict “would be catastrophic.”

Trump has continued to take an aggressive tone on North Korea. On Friday, Trump said that if Kim makes any “overt threat” or strike at a U.S. territory or ally “he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.” Trump also said the U.S. was considering tighter sanctions against North Korea.

China Pressure

“Hopefully it will all work out,” he told reporters in Bedminster, New Jersey. “Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump.”

China, North Korea’s main benefactor, agreed to harsh United Nations sanctions earlier this month even while calling on all sides to take a step back and negotiate a solution. Beijing is reluctant to put so much pressure on the regime that it risks collapse, in part to avoid a scenario that could lead to a unified Korea and push U.S. troops right up to China’s border.

Trump has sought to pressure China to do more by linking action on North Korea to better trade terms. On Monday, he plans to take steps that will increase pressure on China over what the U.S. perceives to be theft of intellectual property.

Trump’s posture suggested he was trying to dissuade Kim from further provocations rather than setting the stage for a U.S. military strike, according to Terence Roehrig, a national security affairs professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport.

“The president’s rhetoric could be aimed at China, but largely it is aimed at North Korea, trying to deter,” Roehrig said. “North Koreans are not suicidal. They may continue launching missile tests but they don’t want a war, and the U.S. doesn’t want military action either.”

— With assistance by Yuan Gao, Janet Ong, Reinie Booysen, Heejin Kim, Nafeesa Syeed, Kenneth Pringle, Min Jeong Lee, and Takashi Amano

Trump Rhetoric Sinks Global Stocks

August 11, 2017

Investors pare back risk positions, taking profits as geopolitical tensions rise

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before a security briefing at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. Evan Vucci, AP

Updated Aug. 11, 2017 4:36 a.m. ET

Global stocks fell again after further North Korea rhetoric Wall Street was poised for another lower opening Haven assets roseGlobal stocks plunged again Friday following a continued escalation of threats between the U.S. and North Korea.

The Stoxx Europe 600 opened down 0.6%, while futures pointed towards a lower open on Wall Street.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 205 points Thursday, its biggest decline since May 17, after President Donald Trump rejected criticism that his threats to release “fire and fury” had been too inflammatory and said his statement “maybe wasn’t tough enough.”

China raised the stakes with an editorial in the state-run Global Times late Thursday saying Beijing would intervene if there is a first strike against North Korea.

Haven appetite continues to support assets like gold, which rose 0.1% to $1,291.50 a troy ounce.

“This situation is beginning to develop into this generation’s Cuban missile crisis,” said ING’s Robert Carnell in a morning note to clients.

The CBOE Volatility Index, a measure of investors’ expectations for swings in the S&P 500 over the next 30 days, surged 44% to 16.04 Thursday–its highest level since Election Day.

The rising tensions, and the typical late-summer slowdown in trading, proved to be an opportunity for investors who have logged strong 2017 gains to pull back and await developments.

“Given the great run we’ve had, seems like some sort of pullback wouldn’t be surprising,” said Michael Baele, managing director of investments at U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management.

In Asia, benchmarks in Hong Kong and South Korea, which had been one of the best performers of the year, slid 2% and 1.7% Friday to put this week’s drop at 2.3% and 3.2%, respectively.

Samsung Electronics fell 2.8% Friday, and was down 6.1% on the week. Chinese messaging and social-gaming company Tencent Holdings, whose surge of about 70% this year was key to the Hang Seng’s gains, fell 4.3% Friday.

Despite the drop, the markets have shown resilience with Korea’s Kospi still up 14.5% year-to-date. The Hang Seng rose 22.3% in the same period.

In China, selling deepened as Friday progressed. Beijing warned of irrational trading in metals after steel-rebar and aluminum futures in China hit five-year highs this week.

When Japanese traders get back to their desks on Monday, stocks will need to catch up with Friday’s regional weakness and the yen’s recent gains against the dollar. The WSJ dollar index, which measures the dollar against a basket of currencies, was up 0.1%.

Write to Kenan Machado at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

Philippines: US destroyer in Mischief Reef not objectionable

August 11, 2017
The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is forward-deployed to the US 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The US destroyer recently sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, one of China’s artificial islands in the Spratlys. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christian Senyk, file

MANILA, Philippines — The latest freedom of navigation operation of the United States near Mischief Reef in the South China Sea is not a cause of concern for the Philippines, a Malacañang official said Friday.

USS John S. McCain recently sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, one of Beijing’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed displease with the operation and said that they will bring up the issue with the US side.

“The US destroyer’s actions have violated Chinese and international laws, as well as severely harmed China’s sovereignty and security,” the ministry said in a statement.

On the other hand, Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that the Philippines does not find the US operation objectionable.

“We’re not the spokesman for the Chinese. On the other hand, in the words of [Defense] Secretary Lorenzana, the Philippines has no objection regarding presumed innocent passage of sea craft and that there is, in other words, freedom of navigation,” Abella said in a televised press briefing.

Last May, the US launched its first freedom of navigation operation in the disputed the South China Sea, traveling near Mischief Reef.

READ: Challenging China, US launches first South China Sea operation under Trump | Beijing protests US Navy patrol through South China Sea

USS Dewey also sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s artificial islands, urging Beijing to seek an explanation with the US over the incident.

Mischief or Panganiban Reef, also being claimed by the Philippines, is included in the ruling of an international arbitration court based in the The Hague, Netherlands.

The United Nation-backed tribunal considered Mischief Reef as a low-tide elevation, which gives no entitlement to any exclusive maritime zone under international law.


Trump Warning on North Korea: ‘Better Get Their Act Together’

August 11, 2017

U.S. leader issues fresh warning to Pyongyang over nuclear and missile programs

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before a security briefing at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. Evan Vucci, AP
Trump: Maybe ‘Fire and Fury’ Comments Weren’t Tough Enough
President Donald Trump on Thursday said his ‘fire and fury’ comments from earlier in the week may not have been tough enough. Photo: Getty

Updated Aug. 10, 2017 11:50 p.m. ET

President Donald Trump, facing defiance from North Korea and resistance from China after his threat to unleash “fire and fury” at Pyongyang, said Thursday that his statement “maybe wasn’t tough enough” and warned of more to come.

Mr. Trump rejected criticisms that his words had been too inflammatory, repeated his exhortation to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to stop issuing threats and vowed to invest billions of dollars more in missile defense.

“They’ve been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years, and it’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries,” Mr. Trump said at his New Jersey golf course, referring to North Korea’s threats. “So, if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.”

Asked what statement would be tougher, Mr. Trump said: “Well, you’ll see. You’ll see.”

The president’s comments escalated an exchange of threats between the U.S. and North Korea that have rattled markets and unnerved world leaders concerned about a nuclear-armed confrontation. U.S. stocks fell by nearly 1% on Thursday, for a third straight session.

Mr. Trump pledged to ease his stance on trade with China if Beijing offers more help on North Korea. He said the U.S. loses hundreds of billions of dollars a year on trade with China. “It’s not going to continue like that,” Mr. Trump said. “But if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade, a lot differently toward trade.”

The war of words with Pyongyang—which responded to Mr. Trump’s latest comments Friday morning local time by saying U.S. “would suffer a shameful defeat and final doom” if it persisted in threatening the country—lays bare the U.S.’s choices.

Some argue the U.S. at this stage must tolerate North Korea as a nuclear power and try to manage it, as the U.S. did with the Soviet Union and China before it, because a war would be catastrophic. Others argue that would be a dangerous approach, leaving the U.S. and its allies vulnerable, and potentially allowing Mr. Kim to extend his influence in the region by threatening nuclear strikes.

Mr. Trump’s more aggressive approach to North Korea has won plaudits among supporters who saw previous administrations as too soft on Pyongyang and think China’s leadership will cooperate on North Korea if faced with a U.S. president willing to pursue military action.

But China’s state media has criticized Mr. Trump’s fiery rhetoric and its government has urged restraint. And Mr. Trump’s critics say the U.S. president runs a risk of alienating the Chinese leadership and stumbling into a war with threats and ultimatums.

More than 60 House Democrats, in a letter on Thursday addressed to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, said: “These statements are irresponsible and dangerous, and also senselessly provide a boon to domestic North Korean propaganda.”

The escalation began earlier in the week after Pyongyang defied pressure from United Nations sanctions, rejected American entreaties to consider talks and threatened to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. if militarily provoked. Mr. Trump responded with his warning that the country to stop making threats or face “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

The exchanges have overshadowed a U.S. diplomatic effort that led to the unanimous passage of the sanctions at the U.N. last weekend and continued with Mr. Tillerson’s visit to Asia this week. Mr. Trump’s threats have drowned out the more conciliatory rhetoric of Mr. Tillerson, who has said Washington doesn’t seek regime change and wants to pressure North Korea into disarmament talks.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis sought to draw attention to those efforts on Thursday, emphasizing that the U.S. wants a diplomatic solution to the North Korean crisis. Mr. Mattis, speaking in California after Mr. Trump, said the diplomatic efforts were showing results and warned that war would be catastrophic.

In his Thursday remarks, Mr. Trump said negotiations between Pyongyang and previous U.S. administrations on nuclear disarmament had proven fruitless. While he cheered sanctions passed by the U.N., he questioned whether they would work. “Probably, it will not be as effective as a lot of people think it can be, unfortunately,” he said.

If diplomatic efforts to pressure North Korea into disarmament talks fail, the White House will face a policy question dreaded by previous administrations: Is it better to accept a North Korea capable of hitting the U.S. with nuclear arms or risk military actions on the Korean Peninsula and the outbreak of war?

Is North Korea Close to Being a Nuclear Weapons State?
Recent news reports indicate North Korea may have succeeded in building a nuclear warhead that can fit atop of one of the regime’s intercontinental missiles. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib examines what that means for the U.S. Photo: AP

Mr. Trump declined to say whether his administration was considering a pre-emptive strike on North Korea to roll back the country’s nuclear program, after his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, voiced the possibility of “preventive war” last weekend.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear weapons tests since 2006, but the country long lacked a demonstrated ability to carry those weapons to U.S. cities. That changed in July when North Korea conducted two intercontinental ballistic missile tests, putting North America within range.

U.S. officials believe North Korea possesses a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop such a missile. But the country has yet to demonstrate that the warhead can withstand travel on the missile through the earth’s atmosphere.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said Americans should be calm despite the tensions. “The people of our country are safe. Our allies are safe,” he said. “And I will tell you this: North Korea better get their act together, or they’re going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world, OK?”

Mr. Trump also attacked Mr. Kim directly. “He has disrespected our country greatly. He has said things that are horrific. And with me he’s not getting away with it​,” Mr. Trump said, noting that the North Korean leader and his family had evaded consequences previously. The president warned: “This is a whole new ballgame.”

U.S. policy makers are divided over whether it’s worth risking the outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula to prevent Pyongyang from obtaining nuclear weapons that can strike U.S. cities.

The alternative is to live with a North Korean regime harboring such weapons and shift to a Cold War-style standoff. The U.S. would then focus diplomatic efforts on pressuring the regime to disarm, while vowing to destroy North Korea if it ever used a nuclear weapon or transferred them abroad.


Policy experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies say it probably would go something like this:

  • First: The Space-Based Infrared System—something of a satellite system would likely detect any initial blast from a missile launch from within North Korea.
  • Second: Three radar systems in South Korea and Japan then could angle up toward the sky to see what types of missiles have launched and get a better read on their trajectory.
  • Third: The U.S. could then use that information when using missile-interceptor systems to attempt to shoot down a missile.

The Obama administration studied the specter of military action to stymie North Korea’s progress but found war on the Korean Peninsula could lead to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of casualties in South Korea, Japan and elsewhere, former national security adviser Susan Rice said Thursday in an op-ed in the New York Times .

“[W]ar is not necessary to achieve prevention, despite what some in the Trump administration seem to have concluded,” Ms. Rice wrote. “History shows that we can, if we must, tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea—the same way we tolerated the far greater threat of thousands of Soviet nuclear weapons during the Cold War.”

In its public statements, however, the Trump administration has disagreed. For months, Mr. Trump and his top advisers have said that the administration refuses to abide a North Korea in possession of nuclear weapons that can hit the U.S.—a red line that American officials predict Mr. Kim will soon cross, absent a diplomatic breakthrough.

Mr. McMaster reiterated the position in an interview Saturday on MSNBC, saying that a North Korea with nuclear weapons that can threaten the U.S. is “intolerable from the president’s perspective.”

Christopher Hill, former senior U.S. diplomat in both Republican and Democratic administrations, agreed the program must be stopped. He characterized any approach that accepts a North Korea with nuclear capabilities as a mistake that will help Pyongyang drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul.

He warned that North Korea could attack South Korea and then threaten to launch a nuclear attack on an American city if U.S. forces came to South Korea’s defense. That would force Washington to choose between defending the homeland and its ally, he said.

Mr. Hill said it’s unclear whether a military strike would retard the North Korean program. “There needs to be much more exploration of the space between war and peace, whether cyber or other efforts to sabotage the program,” he said. “I think that offers a more fruitful approach.”

Already, the Central Intelligence Agency has established a special North Korea mission center. CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon last month that the agency is looking at all its activities to tackle the North Korea threat, including covert operations. ​

The U.S. military understands the consequences of using force to stop the advance of North Korea’s program are too grave, said Robert Einhorn, former State Department special adviser for​nonproliferation and arms control under the Obama administration. He said the military realizes the U.S. will likely have no choice but to tolerate the situation and focus on preventing North Korea from intimidating or attacking the U.S. and its allies.

“The best outcome is what the Trump administration is trying to do, which is to impose irresistible pressures on North Korea until it recognizes that it has to abandon its nuclear and missile programs altogether and soon,” Mr. Einhorn said. “But I believe it’s not going to happen, it’s not realistic. Also I don’t believe preventive military action is realistic, nor is regime change at this point realistic.”

He said the two most practical and realistic approaches, should the current round of diplomacy fail, are to pursue a phased plan to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons, starting with certain interim limitations, and “a long-term strategy of pressure, deterrence and containment.”

Write to Paul Sonne at and Louise Radnofsky at

Appeared in the August 11, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Steps Up Rhetoric.’


From FT (Financial Times)

By Shawn Donnan and Katrina Manson in Washington

Donald Trump stepped up his threats against North Korea on Thursday, declaring that he may not have been “tough enough” in his earlier warning to Pyongyang that the US would deploy “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if the country did not abandon its nuclear ambitions.
“If anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough,” Mr Trump told reporters ahead of a national security briefing at his New Jersey golf club, where he is on what the White House says is a working vacation. But he also said his administration would “always consider negotiations”.
After the remarks, the 10-year Treasury yield dipped 4 basis points to a two-month low of 2.2 per cent as investors sought the safety of US government debt. The S&P 500 ended down 1.45 per cent at a one-month low of 2,438. .
Investors moved out of Asian stocks at a quicker pace, and Korea’s won came under mounting pressure on the currencies markets. Seoul’s Kospi fell a further 1.7 per cent, taking its decline over the week to 3.5 per cent and leaving the index back at a level last seen in May. The Hang Seng fell 1.8 per cent in Hong Kong to an 11-session low.
Mr Trump’s stepped-up rhetoric came as concerns grow across Asia and among many in the Washington foreign policy establishment that the US president’s escalating rhetoric is raising the possibility of conflict on the Korean peninsula. North Korea, which is seeking to develop a nuclear missile that could reach the US, rose to the bait, escalating its own rhetoric and making retaliatory threats.
Tension between the two countries is traditionally heightened in August as the US conducts joint military exercises with South Korea, which Pyongyang views as a direct threat.
North Korea better get their act together or they’re going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
In a statement issued on KCNA, its state news agency, North Korea said the US “would suffer a shameful defeat and final doom if it persists in extreme military adventure, sanctions and pressure”.
The warning, which was issued on Thursday ahead of Mr Trump’s comments, is in line with verbose threats it has made in the past to “mercilessly” wipe out the US.
“This is standard fare for North Korea,” said Jenny Town at the US-Korea Institute, but she warned Mr Trump was “egging” the situation on, saying his repeated threats play into North Korea’s hands by convincing it of the need for nuclear deterrent.
The US is attempting to squeeze North Korea’s economy in an effort to change its direction.
It secured the passage of the strongest UN economic sanctions yet against the nuclear aspirant at the weekend, banning exports worth $1bn a year. Officials say it will take “some time” for those to bite, however, raising questions over why Mr Trump is needlessly upping the ante before they have a chance to act.
In a separate encounter with reporters after that meeting Mr Trump said Kim Jong Un had “disrespected our country greatly” and for the first time responded directly to threats North Korea had made towards the Pacific territory of Guam, home to a major US base.
“[If] he does something in Guam it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before what will happen in North Korea,” Mr Trump said.
“It’s not a dare. It’s a statement. He’s not going to go around threatening Guam and he’s not going to threaten the United States.”
The president on Thursday also defended his administration from charges that it had issued mixed messages on North Korea after Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, played down fears that any war was imminent.
“There were no mixed messages,” Mr Trump said.
“The people of our country are safe. Our allies are safe. And I will tell you this, North Korea better get their act together or they’re going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world.”
US secretary of defence Jim Mattis this week also made his strongest comments yet against North Korea, saying it should be wary of actions that “would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people”.
On Thursday Mr Mattis, who has said war with North Korea would be “catastrophic”, visited a nuclear submarine base in the west of the country, a reminder of his warning that the nuclear aspirant would be grossly outmatched by the US.
“The American effort is diplomatically led, it has diplomatic traction, it is gaining diplomatic results and I want to stay right there right now,” Mr Mattis said.
He added: “The tragedy of war is well-enough known it doesn’t need another characterisation beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic.”
Mr Trump also urged again China to do its part in reining in the regime in Pyongyang, which depends on its relationship with Beijing for its economic survival.
“I think China can do a lot more . . . And I think China will do a lot more. Look, we have trade with China. We lose hundreds of billions of dollars a year on trade with China. They know how I feel. It’s not going to continue like that. But if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade, a lot differently toward trade.”
The Trump administration was poised last week to launch a new investigation into China’s intellectual property regime with the view of increasing its trade pressure on Beijing, which now has a surplus worth more than $300bn annually with the US.
It chose, however, to delay that move as it sought China’s backing for new UN sanctions that were approved by the Security Council last weekend.

U.S. destroyer challenges China’s claims in South China Sea

August 10, 2017


August 10, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy destroyer carried out a “freedom of navigation operation” on Thursday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The operation came as President Donald Trump’s administration seeks Chinese cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs and could complicate efforts to secure a common stance.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS John S. McCain traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals. China has territorial disputes with its neighbors over the area.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

USS John McCain

It was the third “freedom of navigation operation” or “fonop” conducted during Trump’s presidency. Neither China’s defense ministry nor its foreign ministry immediately responded to a request for comment.

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, and comes as Trump is seeking China’s cooperation to rein in North Korea.

Tensions have risen recently after North Korea carried out two nuclear tests last year and two ICBM tests last month, prompting a strong round of U.N. sanctions which angered Pyongyang who threatened to teach the United States a “severe lesson”.

Trump in turn responded by warning North Korea it would face “fire and fury” if it further threatened the United States.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a stark warning to North Korea on Wednesday, telling Pyongyang that it should stop any actions that would lead to the “end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

The United States has criticized China’s construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

The U.S. military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and they are separate from political considerations.

The Trump administration has vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations.

In July, a U.S. warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam.

Experts and officials have criticized President Barack Obama for potentially reinforcing China’s claims by sticking to innocent passage, in which a warship effectively recognized a territorial sea by crossing it speedily without stopping.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.


Latest Korean Standoff May Lack an Off-Ramp

August 10, 2017

History says Pyongyang will back down, but experts worry this time is different; ‘neither side has any incentive to make the first concession’

South Korean and U.S. Marines drilling together in March of 2016. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula reliably rise during the two militaries’ joint exercises—such as the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills, expected to start around Aug. 21—which Seoul and Washington say are defensive and Pyongyang says are rehearsals for an invasion.
South Korean and U.S. Marines drilling together in March of 2016. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula reliably rise during the two militaries’ joint exercises—such as the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills, expected to start around Aug. 21—which Seoul and Washington say are defensive and Pyongyang says are rehearsals for an invasion. PHOTO: KIM JUN-BUM/ASSOCIATED PRESS


Updated Aug. 10, 2017 11:01 a.m. ET

SEOUL—When North Korea has made military threats in recent times, it has usually sought an off-ramp before tensions could spill over into armed conflict.

But the current standoff—U.S. President Donald Trump warning North Korea of “fire and fury,” Pyongyang declaring its intention to send missiles into the waters off Guam, site of a U.S. military base—could extend for weeks or months, security experts and scholars say.

Unlike in the past, North Korea is near having the plausible ability to strike the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons.

The exchange of threats comes at a particularly delicate moment on the Korean Peninsula, less than two weeks before a planned joint military exercise by the U.S. and its allies in South Korea. The annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills, expected to start around Aug. 21 and usually lasting about two weeks, incense North Korea. A spokeswoman for the U.S. military in South Korea declined to comment on the exercises beyond saying they are “regularly scheduled” drills.

On the North Korean side, the general leading the country’s missile program is set in “mid-August” to present leader Kim Jong Un with a specific plan for the simultaneous launch of four intermediate-range missiles toward Guam, according to a North Korean state media report on Thursday. Separately, there are concerns that Pyongyang could answer the latest United Nations Security Council sanctions with another nuclear test or a long-range missile launch.

“Neither side has any incentive to make the first concession,” said Jung Kim, a professor of political science at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “At least for one or two months, we’ll see this game of chicken continue.”

While the U.S. and South Korea say that the drills are defensive, meant to fine-tune operations between the two allied militaries, North Korea calls them rehearsals for invasion. That perception could heightened if the U.S. deploys strategic assets such as aircraft carriers or sends nuclear-capable bombers to the Korean Peninsula. Tensions spiked during the countries’ springtime joint exercises, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, after Mr. Trump said that he was sending an “armada” to the Korean Peninsula.

“I’m concerned about inadvertent escalation as we enter into the season of planned U.S.-South Korea military exercises,” said John Park, director of the Korea Working Group at Harvard University’s Belfer Center. Another round of threats of force from Mr. Trump and North Korea’s state news agency—so presumably from Mr. Kim—would make miscommunication and miscalculation much more likely, he said.

“Almost 24 hours elapsed before we saw a concerted effort in the Trump administration to dial back and qualify the president’s ‘fire and fury’ comment,” Mr. Park noted.

North Korea’s neighbor China, its most important ally, frequently calls on the U.S. and South Korea to desist with the drills to lower tensions.

Usually expressed via threatening public statements from both sides, tensions have flared many times in the past, only to subside.

In 2013, North Korea suspended work at a joint inter-Korean industrial park and warned foreign diplomats to leave Pyongyang as it threatened missile strikes on U.S. Pacific bases, including in Guam and Hawaii. In August 2015, Pyongyang told Seoul it would attack in 48 hours unless South Korea ceased propaganda broadcasts over loudspeakers at the demilitarized zone separating the two countries. Seoul had resumed the broadcasts after two of its soldiers were maimed in a mine explosion that it blamed on the North.

Recent news reports indicate North Korea may have succeeded in building a nuclear warhead that can fit atop of one of the regime’s intercontinental missiles. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib examines what that means for the U.S., where President Donald Trump Tuesday threatened Pyongyang with ‘fire and fury.’ Photo: AP

Both times, North Korea backed down.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha University in Seoul, said launching missiles toward Guam would be so provocative that Pyongyang is unlikely to deliver on that threat.

Still, this time could be different. With less certainty about the U.S. approach under President Donald Trump, scholars and security experts see a higher possibility of miscalculation on either side.

North Korean missiles landing in Guam’s territorial waters would sow chaos. “Is that an act of war? This is pretty frightening. What would be the response at that point?” said Don Manzullo, president and chief executive officer of the Korea Economic Institute in Washington and a former U.S. congressman.

“The added risk this year is at the rhetorical level—how the perennial North Korean provocations are perceived in the White House,” said Adam Mount, senior fellow with the left-leaning Center for American Progress think tank in Washington. “At that level, there is again a serious risk of escalation.”

North Korea may also be trying new tactics, now that it has missiles capable of reaching prominent U.S. military targets. The threat to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam may be aimed at persuading the U.S. to stop sending its B-1B bombers stationed there on flyovers of the Korean Peninsula, as it has several times this year.

“It’s interesting to me that this threat was aimed at the B-1B flights rather than the exercises,” Mr. Mount said. “My guess is they’re testing out this new model of coercive threat.”

Corrections & Amplifications 

Don Manzullo is a former U.S. congressman and president and chief executive officer of the Korea Economic Institute in Washington. An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled his last name. (Aug. 10)

Write to Jonathan Cheng at


EDITORIAL: Trump Needs to Approach North Korea with Caution

August 10, 2017

The Independent

There is no doubt that North Korea is holding the world to ransom – but Trump needs to approach the situation with caution

Never in history has such a potential scale of destruction been in the hands of two men less suited to the task of keeping the peace


donald-trump-fire-fury-north-korea.jpgTrump has vowed to retaliate against North Korea with ‘fire and fury’ REUTERS

Terrifying, certainly, but it may be no bad thing that the world is starting to contemplate exactly what a confrontation between the United States and North Korea might look like. Whether via-long range missiles or the very short-range bombardment or invasion of South Korea; whether aimed at the US mainland or a military base such as Guam; whether nuclear or conventional, the consequences of such a war vary only in the speed at which they would lead to an apocalypse. Millions would die, more would be horribly injured and starve, the environmental damage would be vast and most likely irreparable, the world economy would be driven into depression, and, in fact, it would resolve precisely nothing, unless the view is taken that the only way to preserve stability in North-east Asia is to turn the region into a graveyard.

That, after all, is the logic behind the octane of nuclear deterrence – the credible notion of mutually assured destruction. It has been tested many times before, not least during the periodic flare-ups in the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. More recently it has kept an uneasy peace between the likes of India and Pakistan; Israeli possession of such weaponry may even have stalled any modern pre-emptive war against her by hostile neighbours.

Trump threatens North Korea with ‘fire and fury’ amid nuclear weapon reports

Yet never in history has such a potential scale of destruction been in the hands of two men less suited to the task of keeping the peace. For the other way of contemplating the situation facing the whole world today is to consider that the fate of the planet is in the hands of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, their respective bizarre hairstyles symbolising their bizarre world view. Impatient, hypersensitive, insecure, dynastic, bullying, vain… the two men are hardly a mirror image, and there is no moral equivalence between democratic, freedom-loving America and the Stalinist hermit kingdom in North Korea, but the similarities in personality are, to say the least, disturbing.

Nor is there any equivalence about who is now holding the world hostage. It is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that is defying United Nations resolutions in its quest to become untouchable, and, thus, ensure the continuance of Kim’s rule and that of his family. It is North Korea, not America that is setting off rockets to intimidate its neighbours. It is Kim who executes political dissidents, up to and including his half-brother, famously ambushed at Kuala Lumpur airport. And it is Kim, his father and grandfather who has starved, duped and used his long-suffering people for the most cynical of motives.

All that the rest of the world, as near helpless bystanders, can do is to press on President Trump the need for caution, even as Kim is making direct threats to American lives and territory, and to tone down the rhetoric about fire and destruction, which makes little difference to Kim in any case, except perhaps to wind him up. We can also beg China to use whatever leverage it has over its unruly ally, and orchestrate the other powers in the region – South Korea, Japan, Russia, Australia and the smaller ASEAN countries to continue to use whatever diplomatic channels remain.

For now, though, we are staring into an abyss.

North Korea forms plans to target Guam within days as it dismisses Donald Trump’s threats as ‘nonsense’

August 10, 2017

People walk by a TV screen showing a local news program reporting with an image of U.S. President Donald Trump at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday.
People walk by a TV screen showing a local news program reporting with an image of U.S. President Donald Trump at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday. PHOTO: LEE JIN-MAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

By Nick Allen, Nicola Smith and Julian Ryall

North Korea declared on Thursday it would have a plan ready by “mid-August” to launch four missiles into waters near the US territory of Guam, as it branded Donald Trump’s threats as “nonsense”.

With tensions between the US and Kim Jong-un’s rogue state escalating,  critics accused Mr Trump of inflaming the situation with “reckless” sabre-rattling.

Dismissing his threats as “a load of nonsense”, the rogue state ridiculed the US president as a “guy bereft of reason” and said only “absolute force can work on him”.

The statement from North Korean General Kim Rak Gyom said North Korea would produce a plan to fire four Hwasong-12 rockets more then 2,000 miles over Japan to “hit the waters 30 to 40 km away from Guam”.

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North Korean General Kim Rak Gyom

The plan would be presented to leader Kim Jong-un who would make a decision on whether to proceed. The statement added: “We will keep closely watching the speech and behaviour of…

Read the rest:


North Korea details Guam missile plan, calls Trump’s warning a ‘load of nonsense’


SEOUL/GUAM (Reuters) – North Korea dismissed as a “load of nonsense” warnings by U.S. President Donald Trump that it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States, and outlined on Thursday detailed plans for a missile strike near the Pacific territory of Guam.

North Korea’s apparently rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland has fueled tensions that erupted into a war of words between Washington and Pyongyang this week, unnerving regional powers and global investors.

Trump’s unexpected remarks prompted North Korea to say on Thursday it was finalizing plans to fire four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land 30-40 km (18-25 miles) from Guam, adding detail to a plan first announced on Wednesday.

Guam, more than 3,000 km (2,000 miles) to the southeast of North Korea, is home to about 163,000 people and a U.S. Navy base that includes a submarine squadron and a Coast Guard group, and an air base.

“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him,” a report by the North’s state-run KCNA news agency said of Trump.

The army will complete its plans in mid-August, ready for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s order, KCNA reported, citing General Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army.

While North Korea regularly threatens to destroy the United States and its allies, the report was unusual in its detail.

Masao Okonogi, professor emeritus at Japan’s Keio University, said before the latest KCNA report that Pyongyang may be issuing a warning or advance notice of changes to its missile testing program rather than threatening an attack.

“I believe this is a message saying they plan to move missile tests from the Sea of Japan to areas around Guam,” he told Reuters. “By making this advance notice, they are also sending a tacit message that what they are going to do is not a actual attack.”

Experts said the detail provided by North Korea made it likely it would follow through with its plans to avoid being seen as weak or lacking in resolve.


Guam Governor Eddie Calvo said there was no heightened threat from North Korea.

“They like to be unpredictable, they’ll pop a missile off when no one is ready and they’ve done it quite a few times,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“They’re now telegraphing their punch, which means they don’t want to have any misunderstandings. I think that’s a position of fear,” he said.

Lee Choon-geun, senior research fellow at South Korea’s state-run Science and Technology Policy Institute, said there was a risk that any missile could land much closer to Guam than planned.


“The United States will consider it an apparent attack if it lands within its territorial waters and, given the risks involved, will most likely try to shoot them down before they land anywhere close to Guam and its territorial sea,” Lee told Reuters.

“This could elevate the threats to an unprecedented level.”

The U.S. Seventh Fleet currently has six Aegis ballistic missile defense ships in the region capable of targeting North Korean missiles, and Japan has a further four. Guam also has a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, similar to the that recently installed in South Korea.

Japan could legally intercept a North Korean missile headed toward Guam, its defense minister said on Thursday, but experts believe Japan does not currently have the capability to do so.

The United States and South Korea remain technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

Slideshow (26 Images)

Tension in the region has risen since North Korea carried out two nuclear bomb tests last year and two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July. Trump has said he will not allow Pyongyang to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a stark warning on Wednesday, telling Pyongyang it would lose any arms race or conflict.

“The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people,” Mattis said in a statement, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Washington has warned it is ready to use force if needed to stop North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs but that it prefers global diplomatic action. The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday.


In a video of a rally in Pyongyang released by KCNA, Pak Hyong Ryol, the manager of a Pyongyang cornstarch factory, said North Koreans did not mind any kind of sanctions.

“They cannot stop our advance. This is the answer of our heroic Kim Il Sung-Kim Jong Il working class which has been grown up under the warm care of the Party,” Pak said, referring to North Korea’s first two leaders.

North Korea accuses Washington of devising a “preventive war” and has said any plans to execute this would be met with an “all-out war, wiping out all the strongholds of enemies, including the U.S. mainland”.

China, North Korea’s main ally, has consistently urged both sides to work to lower tensions.

Influential Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times said the North Korean nuclear issue was heading toward confrontation and it was time for the United States to respond to Pyongyang’s security concerns.

“North Korea has almost been completely isolated by the outside world. Under such extreme circumstances, Pyongyang will weigh all its possible options,” it said in an editorial on its website on Thursday. “Washington should stimulate Pyongyang’s desire to engage with the outside world and return to the international community.”

Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Susan Heavey and John Walcott in WASHINGTON, Soyoung Kim in SEOUL, William Mallard, Tim Kelly, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Linda Sieg in TOKYO, and John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Paul Tait

U.S., North Korea Have Few Channels Through Which to Resolve Crises (Video)

August 10, 2017

WASHINGTON — Washington and Moscow have over decades established mechanisms to prevent crises from spinning out of control, from hotlines to satellites and over-flights that allow the nuclear-armed adversaries to track each other’s military deployments.

No such safety nets exist between Washington and Pyongyang, worrying experts who say an accident, misstatement or erroneous reading by one side of the other’s actions could spiral into full-scale conflict even though neither side wants war.

Tensions have risen markedly in the past few days after North Korea warned Washington of a “severe lesson” following U.N. action against it and U.S. President Donald Trump in turn warning that any threats to the United States from Pyongyang would be met with “fire and fury.”

Trump’s unexpected remarks prompted North Korea to respond by saying it was considering plans for a missile strike on the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

Experts said there are limited channels through which the two sides can try to exchange proposals to ease tensions over North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.


“We have some ad hoc and analogue ways of communicating with North Korea but we don’t have anything that has proven itself and can withstand the stress of crises,” said Jon Wolfsthal, a top non-proliferation adviser to former President Barack Obama.

The two sides have no diplomatic relations, so they have no embassies in each other’s capitals. They maintain contacts through their United Nations missions, their embassies in Beijing and meetings between military officers at Panmunjom, the location on the militarized frontier dividing the Korean Peninsula where the truce that stilled the 1950-53 Korean War was signed.

Washington also passes messages through Pyongyang’s ally and neighbor China, or Sweden, the U.S. protecting power in Pyongyang.

There was a hotline linking Seoul and Pyongyang, but North Korean leader Kim Jong Un severed the channel in 2013 and refused to restore it, said Gary Samore, a former senior White House adviser now with Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

“You can’t handle this crisis through tweets and public statements,” said Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, an arms control group, referring to Trump’s penchant for using Twitter to deliver policy announcements.


Even India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed, have a set of basic agreements designed to reduce the risk of an accidental war and a commitment not to attack each other’s nuclear sites.

In February, the arch rivals, who are steadily expanding their nuclear weapon and missile programs, renewed a pact to inform each other of accidents involving nuclear weapons for another five years so that there was no misinterpretation.

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NKor — A man watches a TV showing file footage of a North Korea’s ballistic missile at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul. AP photo

The two countries exchange a list of their nuclear sites each January as part of a 1998 agreement not to attack those facilities because of the risk of radiation to population centers.

However, experts say India and Pakistan need to take further nuclear confidence-building measures because tensions remain high.

It took years during the Cold War for Washington and Moscow to establish hotlines and develop protocols by which their presidents and top officials could verify that the person with whom they were in contact was who they said they were due to a lack of trust, Wolfsthal said.

“The challenge … was first how to establish direct contact, president-to-president, military-to-military, and then how to make sure they would be reliable, safe, and secure in the case of a conflict,” he said. “How would they verify the identities of people? This is something we took a long, hard slog at for decades.”

Those protocols are still in use and have become arguably more important in an era of cyberwarfare. Washington and Moscow have also established newer channels. For instance, they use a “deconfliction channel” in Syria where they are both conducting military operations to ensure they do not come into conflict.

Even so, there were incidents during the Cold War that brought Washington and Moscow close to the brink of war mainly because of early warning system glitches, said Lisbeth Grolund of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an arms control organization.

“In one case, in the Soviet Union, they got a warning that an attack was underway. Everything looked real, but the person on the scene there decided to disobey orders and not tell his boss,” she said. “And it was a good thing because it was not an attack. Their satellite had seen a reflection off of the clouds.”

(Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in BERLIN and Sanjeev Miglani in NEW DELHI; Editing by Yara Bayoumy, James Dalgleish and Paul Tait)