Posts Tagged ‘Guam’

Top U.S. General Reaffirms Commitment to Japan Amid North Korea Tensions

August 18, 2017

TOKYO — The top U.S. general repeated Washington’s “ironclad commitment” to the security of its close Asian ally, Japan, on Friday amid regional tensions over North Korea, telling his counterpart in Tokyo that “an attack on one is an attack on both of us”.

Fears about North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs have grown in recent weeks. Pyongyang has said it was considering plans to fire missiles over Japan towards the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, although North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to have delayed the decision.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and their Japanese counterparts agreed at a meeting in Washington on Thursday to work more closely on North Korea.

“The most important thing it (the ministers’ meeting) did was reaffirm the primacy of our bilateral relationship here in Asia-Pacific,” U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford said at the start of a meeting with the Chief of Staff of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces, Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, left, poses with Japanese Chief of Staff, Joint Staff Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano for a photo during a meeting at Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“This is a very important time for security in the region and of course we are mostly focused on the threat coming out of North Korea,” Dunford said. “I think we have made it clear to North Korea and anyone else in the region that an attack on one is an attack on both of us.”

Tillerson said in Washington the United States wanted dialogue with Pyongyang, but only if it were meaningful.

“Our effort is to cause them to want to engage in talks but engage in talks with an understanding that these talks will lead to a different conclusion than talks of the past,” he said.

In 2005, North Korea reached an agreement with six countries to suspend its nuclear program in return for diplomatic rewards and energy assistance but the deal later collapsed.

Tensions have risen after North Korea conducted two missile tests in July which, like its five atomic bomb tests, were carried out in defiance of international pressure and United Nations resolutions.

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed not to allow North Korea to develop nuclear missiles that could hit the mainland United States but Pyongyang sees its nuclear arsenal as protection against Washington and its partners in Asia.

Dunford said on Thursday the United States and South Korea would go ahead with joint military drills next week despite pressure from North Korea and its main ally, China, to halt the contentious exercises that Pyongyang routinely describes as preparation for war.

North Korea has fired missiles and taken other steps in response to the war games in the past.

“FIRE AND FURY”

Trump warned North Korea last week it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States, prompting North Korea to say it was considering plans to fire missiles toward Guam.

Both sides have since tempered their rhetoric somewhat, but with North Korea’s military capabilities growing, Japan has been looking to strengthening its defenses.

The Japanese defense ministry wants to introduce a land-based missile defense system called “Aegis Ashore” to address North Korea’s missile threats and has decided to seek funding in the next fiscal year to cover the system design costs, a Japanese defense official told Reuters.

“We will absolutely help and what’s most important for ballistic missile defense is that we integrate our capabilities,” Dunford said.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono said in Washington Japan would strengthen its defense posture in response to the North Korean threat and provide $500 million to help boost maritime security in East Asia, where China has been pursuing extensive maritime claims that have angered regional neighbors.

Japan is likely to increase its defense spending at a faster pace in its next five-year plan from April 2019 than the annual 0.8 percent average rise in its current mid-term plan, the Nikkei business daily reported on Friday. Defense officials have said such a rise was desirable but finance ministry officials are cautious because of Tokyo’s mammoth public debt.

North Korea has repeatedly threatened to target Japan, which hosts around 54,000 U.S. military personnel, as well as South Korea and the United States with its missiles.

SANCTIONS BITE

The United Nations earlier this month approved tough new sanctions against North Korea in response to its missile tests, which include a ban on North Korean seafood exports.

China, North Korea’s largest trading partner, has vowed to enforce the new sanctions, as it has done with previous ones, and says it’s ready to pay the price.

State-run Chinese newspaper the Global Times said on its website late Thursday that authorities in the Chinese border city of Hunchun were negotiating with North Korea about the fate of seafood trucks stuck between the two countries’ customs ports.

“The seafood that can’t enter China is ready to be gradually shipped back to North Korea,” a Hunchun official told the paper.

(Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo, and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Paul Tait and Lincoln Feast)

South Korea’s Moon Says North Korean Nuclear-Tipped ICBM Is a ‘Red Line’

August 17, 2017

SEOUL — North Korea would be “crossing a red line” if it put a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile, South Korea’s president said on Thursday, but the United States had promised to seek Seoul’s approval before taking any military action.

North Korea’s rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland has fueled a surge in tensions in recent days. Pyongyang has threatened to fire missiles towards the Pacific island of Guam and U.S. President Donald Trump has warned it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.

“I would consider that North Korea is crossing a red line if it launches an intercontinental ballistic missile again and weaponizes it by putting a nuclear warhead on top of the missile,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said at a news conference marking his first 100 days in office.

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Moon Jae-in at the Blue House. EPA Photo

Moon has repeatedly urged North Korea not to “cross the red line” but had not previously elaborated what that would constitute.

Trump had promised to seek negotiations and approval from South Korea before taking any options regarding North Korea, Moon also said.

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.

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.

“NO MILITARY SOLUTION”

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters in Chile on Wednesday that “all options” remained on the table with regards to North Korea, and he called on Latin American nations to break ties with Pyongyang.

However, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said there was “no military solution” to North Korea’s nuclear threats because of Pyongyang’s massed artillery targeting the South Korean capital.

Image result for Pyongyang's massed artillery, photos

North Korea’s massed artillery

“Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us,” Bannon told The American Prospect.

China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, has repeatedly urged Pyongyang to halt its weapons program and at the same time urged South Korea and the United States to stop military drills in order to lower tensions.

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North Korean people march in support of their leader, Kim Jong un

Bannon said he was pushing the U.S. administration to take a harder line on China trade and not put complaints against its trade practices in the backseat in the hope that Beijing would help restrain leader Kim Jong Un.

“To me, the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that,” The American Prospect quoted Bannon as saying.

CHINA URGES TALKS

Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of China’s powerful Central Military Commission, told Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, that China believes the only effective way to resolve the North Korean issue is through talks.

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U.S. Chairman on the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford with China’s PLA General Fang Fenghui. AP photo

“China believes that dialogue and consultations are the only effective avenue to resolve the peninsula issue, and that military means cannot become an option,” China’s Defence Ministry cited Fan as saying.

Dunford told reporters in Beijing that a peaceful option was the preferred solution but nobody thought economic pressure alone can result in denuclearization.

Dialing back military exercises was not currently on the negotiating table with North Korea, Dunford said.

North Korea sees joint South Korea-U.S. military drills as a preparation for war. The latest exercise is scheduled to start on Aug 21, involving tens of thousands of U.S. and South Korean troops.

In the past, North Korea has fired missiles and taken other steps in response to the war games.

North Korean media reported on Tuesday that Kim had delayed the decision on firing four missiles towards Guam, a U.S. territory home to a vital air base and Navy facility, while he waited to see what the United States did next.

“Kim Jong Un of North Korea made a very wise and well reasoned decision,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!”

Trump’s National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster met Japan’s defense and foreign ministers in Washington on Wednesday to discuss the importance of deterring North Korea’s provocations and Tokyo’s ballistic missile defenses, according to the Japanese government.

(Additional reporting by Philip Wen and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, and Linda Sieg in TOKYO; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Paul Tait)

South Korean Party Calls for US to Bring Back Tactical Nukes

August 16, 2017

BEIJING — A South Korean conservative party has called for the United States to bring back tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula to better cope against North Korean threats.

The opposition Liberty Korea Party said Wednesday it adopted the demand as official party line following a meeting of its lawmakers in Seoul.

The party’s call comes amid a tense standoff between United States and North Korea over the North’s recent ICBM tests and threats to fire missiles toward Guam that has also raised fears in South Korea about a potential military clash in the peninsula. China’s foreign minister was quoted as saying the U.S. and North Korea should “hit the brakes” on their threatening words in the dispute.

Washington withdrew tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in the 1990s.

North Korea Follows Familiar Playbook With Guam Reversal

August 15, 2017

Cycle of tensions is set for another jolt with next week’s U.S.-South Korea military exercises

In this photo distributed on Tuesday by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is shown visiting his military forces.
In this photo distributed on Tuesday by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is shown visiting his military forces. PHOTO: KOREA NEWS SERVICE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Aug. 15, 2017 10:43 a.m. ET

North Korea’s climbdown from its threat to attack Guam was a product of textbook brinkmanship from Pyongyang, amid economic pressure from Beijing, President Donald Trump’s bellicose rhetoric and an effort by senior U.S. officials to emphasize the need for diplomacy.

But concrete progress is less certain. Pyongyang is expert at rapidly escalating and de-escalating tensions, and the next cycle could begin as early as next week, when American forces begin annual joint exercises with South Korea.

North Korea’s turnaround also does little to address the Trump administration’s longer-term challenge: stopping the country’s quest for an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reliably delivering a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland.

An escalation of threats between Washington and Pyongyang has rattled world leaders, injected uncertainty into markets, and sparked fear of a nuclear showdown. The WSJ’s Shelby Holliday takes a look back at the week. Photo: AP
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Pyongyang’s exact motivations for dialing down tensions are as opaque and subject to debate as its motivation for having threatened Guam in the first place. In addition to concerns about further escalation, they appear to have been influenced by Beijing’s announcement Monday that it would enforce new trade sanctions and diplomatic statements by senior U.S. officials.

Officials in China, Japan, South Korea and many other nations had been alarmed last week when Mr. Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury” in response to threats from North Korea, and declared that U.S. military solutions were “locked and loaded.”

In many ways, North Korea’s announcement on Tuesday that it would hold off—for now—on threats to surround Guam with an “enveloping fire” of intermediate-range ballistic missiles follows a familiar pattern in Pyongyang’s playbook.

Beachgoers enjoy Ypao Beach Park in Tamuning, Guam on Tuesday. North Korea threatened an attack near the American territory before backing down this week.
Beachgoers enjoy Ypao Beach Park in Tamuning, Guam on Tuesday. North Korea threatened an attack near the American territory before backing down this week. PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES
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Two years ago, during another August standoff, North Korea issued a 48-hour ultimatum to South Korea to switch off loudspeakers blaring propaganda critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un across the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries, following the explosion of a land mine there that maimed two South Korean soldiers. North Korea threatened to use force to stop the broadcasts.

South Korea ignored the deadline, and days later, North Korea expressed regret for the land mine, dismissed several senior officials and put inter-Korean relations back on what it called a “track of reconciliation and trust.” South Korea shut off its loudspeakers.

In March last year, also during U.S.-South Korea military exercises, Pyongyang threatened to attack Seoul’s presidential palace unless it received an apology from then South Korean President Park Geun-hye. No apology was forthcoming, and the threat never materialized.

North Korea’s threat to Guam was consistent with its record of using strategic brinkmanship to compensate for its relative weakness, said Yang Xiyu, a former Chinese diplomat who has taken part in multilateral talks on North Korea’s nuclear program.

“They try to create a situation where North Korea and the U.S. are at the brink of war and if you want to save the whole world, then you have to return to negotiations,” he said.

The North Korea Crisis

A timeline of the escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang

  • July 4, 2017

    North Korea test-launches its first intercontinental ballistic missile, a weapon capable of hitting the mainland U.S.
  • July 28, 2017

    A North Korean missile flies even higher in a new test, establishing that if launched at a standard trajectory it could hit the contiguous U.S. states and possibly go as far as Denver and Chicago.PHOTO: KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Aug. 5, 2017

    In a show of unanimity, the United Nations Security Council approves new sanctions against North Korea.
  • Aug. 6, 2017

    North Korea calls the sanctions “a frontal attack on our republic and violent infringement on our sovereignty.”
  • Aug. 8, 2017

    President Donald Trump says North Korea will be met with “fire and fury” if it continues threatening the U.S.PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

  • Aug. 9, 2017

    North Korea says it is considering plan to launch four missiles to surround Guam with “enveloping fire.”
  • Aug. 10, 2017

    Mr. Trump ratchets up his rhetoric, saying maybe his threat of fire and fury “wasn’t tough enough.”
  • Aug. 11, 2017

    Mr. Trump tweets that military solutions to the crisis are “in place, locked and loaded.” Separately, Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping discuss North Korea by phone. China says it urged restraint. The U.S. says the leaders affirmed the importance of the new sanctions.
  • Aug. 12, 2017

    The Trump administration announces plan to investigate alleged Chinese intellectual-property theft.
  • Aug. 14, 2017

    China announces ban on imports of coal, iron and seafood from North Korea.
  • Aug. 15, 2017

    North Korea says it has decided not to carry out missile attack on Guam.PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

Source: Staff and news reports

However, Mr. Yang said Pyongyang’s climbdown this time came faster than expected. He gave some of the credit for North Korea’s apparent reversal to China’s rapid implementation on Monday of new United Nations sanctions banning North Korean exports of goods including coal, iron, lead and seafood.

“The significance is that if China can stop major imports like these, then it can do something further too,” he said.

China has resisted U.S. pressure to take bolder measures, such as cutting oil exports to Pyongyang, fearing that might cause the regime to collapse, trigger a flood of refugees into northeastern China and bring U.S. forces closer to its border.

China almost certainly sent back-channel messages to the North Koreans in the past few days warning them against firing missiles toward Guam, said Dennis Wilder, a former senior China analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency.

“Kim [Jong Un] has to worry that the newly imposed U.N. sanctions will be combined with unannounced unilateral sanctions from Beijing on such commodities as jet and diesel fuel,” Mr. Wilder said.

Beijing also appeared to indicate displeasure with Pyongyang by proceeding with a long-planned visit to China this week by Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added.

Gen. Dunford signed an agreement with his Chinese counterpart on Tuesday to formalize and increase the level of communication between the U.S. and Chinese militaries. On Wednesday, Gen. Dunford is due to visit China’s Northern Theater Command, which oversees Chinese forces on the North Korean border, according to Chinese and U.S. military officials.

On a visit to Seoul before arriving in Beijing on Tuesday, Gen. Dunford said the U.S. military was supporting efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the North Korean crisis, even as it prepared other options.

His comments echoed remarks from other senior administration officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who in recent days have sought to moderate Mr. Trump’s threats toward North Korea.

Some longtime North Korea watchers say that North Korea had likely never intended to launch four missiles toward Guam. The leadership in Pyongyang may also have been encouraged that, while President Trump raised the rhetorical temperature last week, the U.S. refrained from taking any actions that would signal more of a war footing.

North Korea was particularly sensitive about the dispatching of B-1B bombers from the U.S. Air Force base on Guam, the initial stated impetus for the North’s most recent threat, said Euan Graham, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, an Australian think tank. The U.S. hasn’t conducted any further B-1B flyovers since the threat against Guam.

Mr. Trump’s tough talk could also have spooked the North Koreans into fearing that the regime was truly in danger of unleashing a war against the U.S., said Grant Newsham, a senior research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo.

“Maybe North Korea felt that they had pushed it a little too far, at least for now,” said Mr. Newsham, a retired U.S. Marine colonel. “Now you’ve got a president who is certainly a different kind of president, and when Kim starts talking big, Trump says ‘I see you and raise you one.’ ”

But any lull in tensions could prove ephemeral.

“I don’t think they’ve taken the threat off the table,” said Adam Mount, senior fellow with the left-leaning Center for American Progress think tank in Washington.

The North’s statement now appears to tie a Guam launch to the coming military exercises, Mr. Mount said.

Much could depend on whether the U.S. sends major assets, such as aircraft carriers, to participate, or stages lower-key drills.

Ahead of those exercises, Gen. Vincent Brooks, the top American military commander in South Korea, on Monday played down questions about whether the U.S. was planning to deploy more “strategic assets” to the Korean Peninsula. The phrase “strategic assets” typically refers to nuclear weapons, stealth bombers or aircraft carriers—all of which tend to trigger complaints from Pyongyang.

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/north-korea-sticks-to-game-plan-in-reversing-threat-to-guam-1502808199

China says N.Korea crisis faces ‘turning point’ — Time for a “less bellicose tone”

August 15, 2017

AFP

© KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/File | China, which is Pyongyang’s main diplomatic ally, has repeatedly called on the United States and North Korea to tone down their bellicose rhetoric in recent day

BEIJING (AFP) – China said Tuesday that the North Korean nuclear crisis had reached a “turning point” and it was time to enter peace talks.

The comments by foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying came as the verbal sparring between the United States and North Korea took a less bellicose tone on Tuesday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said he would hold off on a threatened missile strike near Guam, though he warned the highly provocative move would go ahead in the event of further “reckless actions” by Washington.

Top US officials, meanwhile, said Washington was not interested in regime change in Pyongyang, and South Korean President Moon Jae-In warned that there could be no war without his country’s consent.

“It’s the turning point to make a resolute decision and return to peace talks,” Hua said when asked about Moon’s comments at a regular news briefing.

China, which is Pyongyang’s main diplomatic ally, has repeatedly called on the United States and North Korea to tone down their bellicose rhetoric in recent days.

“We now hope that all the concerned parties, in what they say and what they do, can contribute to extinguishing the fire (of the tense situation), rather than adding fuel to the fire,” Hua said.

Beijing has also pressed for a return of six-nation talks that have been dormant since 2009.

Hua applauded the “positive” article written by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the The Wall Street Journal in which they say that America has “no interest” in regime change in Pyongyang.

“We hope the US can translate this positive statement into concrete DPRK-related policies,” Hua said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name. “At the same time, we call on the DPRK to respond” to the positive statement.

Top U.S. general says committed to working through difficulties with China

August 15, 2017

Reuters

AUGUST 15, 2017 / 5:35 AM

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Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford reviews a Chinese honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Bayi Building in Beijing, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. (AP Photo – Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

BEIJING (Reuters) – There are many difficult issues between the United States and China but both share a commitment to work through them, the United States’ top general said on Tuesday during a visit to Beijing amid tension over nuclear-armed North Korea.

“I think we have to be honest. We have many, many difficult issues where we don’t necessarily share the same perspective,” Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fang Fenghui, chief of the Joint Staff Department of the People’s Liberation Army.

“We share a commitment to work through these difficult issues,” he added, without elaborating.

Fang said China attached great important to his visit and had arranged for him to observe a military exercise.

In a later statement, China’s Defence Ministry said the two discussed North Korea, Taiwan and the South China Sea and signed a framework agreement on a China-U.S. military dialogue mechanism, though it gave no details.

Fang said cooperation was the only correct choice for the two countries, and their two militaries could certainly become good cooperative partners, the ministry added.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Gen. Fang Fenghui shake hands after signing an agreement to strengthen communication between the two militaries amid tensions concerning North Korea at the Bayi Building in Beijing, China August 15, 2017.Mark Schiefelbein/Pool

“The Chinese military is willing to make efforts with the U.S. side to strengthen strategic communication, increase strategic mutual trust, deepen practical cooperation, appropriately handle problems and disputes and effectively manage and control risks,” the ministry cited Fang as saying.

The United States has called on China to do more to rein in its isolated neighbor North Korea, while China has said it is Washington that needs to be making more efforts to lessen tensions and speak directly to Pyongyang.

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U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, second left, speaks during a meeting with Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, not shown, at the Bayi Building in Beijing, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

North Korea’s leader has delayed a decision on firing missiles towards the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam while he watches U.S. actions a little longer, the North’s state media said on Tuesday, as South Korea’s president said Seoul would seek to prevent war by all means.

China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, say they are committed to having a stable military-to-military relationship, but there are deep fault lines.

China has been angered by U.S. freedom of navigation patrols near Chinese-controlled islands in the disputed South China Sea and U.S. arms sales and support for self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as a wayward province.

The United States has expressed concern about what it calls unsafe intercepts of U.S. aircraft by the Chinese air force and a lack of transparency in China’s military spending, China being in the midst of an ambitious military modernization program.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel

Guam radio stations accidentally trigger emergency alert

August 15, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | A fisherman works off a beach at Tumon Bay in Guam
HAGATNA (GUAM) (AFP) – Guam residents received a nasty jolt Tuesday after two radio stations accidentally issued emergency warnings to indicate an imminent threat or attack, at a time when the US territory is already on edge over North Korean threats to fire missiles into nearby waters.Several concerned listeners were reported to have called police after the stations triggered the Emergency Alert Broadcast System, issuing “a civil danger” warning at 12:25 am that was later confirmed to be a mistake.

North Korea had said it would finalise plans by mid-August on whether to fire missiles at Guam in response to “fire and fury” threats from US President Donald Trump.

But Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday reported that Kim had examined the plans but made no move towards an immediate strike.

“Residents and visitors are reminded to remain calm,” said Guam?s homeland security adviser George Charfauros.

“There is no change in threat level, we continue business as usual.”

Homeland Security confirmed in a statement that the “unauthorised test was not connected to any emergency, threat or warning” and it was working with the radio stations “to ensure the human error will not occur again”.

Kim on Tuesday hinted he would hold off on the missile strike, saying he would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees spending a hard time of every minute of their miserable lot”.

Seoul Warns U.S. Against Unilateral Military Action Against North Korea

August 15, 2017

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said allied military action could only be taken on the Korean Peninsula with Seoul’s consent

South Korean President Moon Jae-in marked the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese surrender in WWII.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in marked the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese surrender in WWII. PHOTO: CHUNG SUNG-JUN/GETTY IMAGES
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Aug. 15, 2017 3:14 a.m. ET

South Korea’s president warned the U.S. would need Seoul’s consent for any military action on the Korean Peninsula, and renewed calls for talks with the North, after Pyongyang said it had decided not to carry out a plan to attack the U.S. territory of Guam with missiles.

President Moon Jae-in extended the latest olive branch to North Korea in a speech Tuesday on the 72nd anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

He called on the regime to suspend nuclear and missile tests as a precondition for talks, and offered a fresh invitation for the North to attend next year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

But in a message that appeared to be aimed at Washington, he said that allied military action could only be taken on the Korean Peninsula with the consent of South Korea, an implicit signal that Mr. Moon wouldn’t tolerate any unilateral action by the U.S. to strike North Korea following weeks of escalating tensions.

“War must never break out again on the Korean Peninsula. Only the Republic of Korea can make the decision for military action on the Korean Peninsula,” he said, using the country’s formal name.

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul declined to comment on Mr. Moon’s speech Tuesday, which was a holiday in Korea.

Mr. Moon reiterated his support for further sanctions on North Korea, saying such an approach could help bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table. He argued that the last time North Korea agreed to a moratorium on nuclear and missile testing, its relations with South Korea, the U.S. and Japan improved.

“The past history of the North Korean nuclear problem showed that a clue to resolving the problem was found when sanctions were combined with dialogue,” he said.

An escalation of threats between Washington and Pyongyang has rattled world leaders, injected uncertainty into markets, and sparked fear of a nuclear showdown. The WSJ’s Shelby Holliday takes a look back at the week. Photo: AP
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Mr. Moon, South Korea’s first left-leaning president in nearly a decade, has called for closer cooperation with North Korea. In his speech Tuesday, Mr. Moon appeared to push for more independence from the U.S. on military affairs, though he emphasized, on two separate occasions, that his position wasn’t different from Washington’s.

“We cannot rely only on our ally for our security,” Mr. Moon said. “When it comes to matters related to the Korean Peninsula, our country has to take the initiative in resolving them.”

Hours earlier, North Korea pulled back its threat to attack Guam after days of trading increasingly bellicose rhetoric with U.S. President Donald Trump.

North Korean state media said that Kim Jong Un had made his decision not to fire on Guam after visiting a military command post and examining a military plan presented to him by his senior officers. But it warned that he could change his mind “if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions.”

The announcement came after China banned imports of key North Korean materials, Beijing’s toughest steps against Pyongyang, to support United Nations sanctions.

In Guam, authorities welcomed the apparent lifting of the missile threat from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We are happy that the rhetoric has calmed down, that he won’t be pursuing his threats to fire missiles at Guam,” said Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio. “The comments allay some of the concerns and the fears.”

The U.S. military on Guam would maintain a high level of readiness to respond to any threat, said Greg Kuntz, deputy public affairs officer for Joint Region Marianas.

Guam is home to two major U.S. military bases. The island is situated roughly 3,800 miles west of Hawaii and 2,100 miles south-southeast of Pyongyang.

The North Korea Crisis

A timeline of the escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang

  • July 4, 2017

    North Korea test-launches its first intercontinental ballistic missile, a weapon capable of hitting the mainland U.S.
  • July 28, 2017

    A North Korean missile flies even higher in a new test, establishing that if launched at a standard trajectory it could hit the contiguous U.S. states and possibly go as far as Denver and Chicago.PHOTO: KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Aug. 5, 2017

    In a show of unanimity, the United Nations Security Council approves new sanctions against North Korea.
  • Aug. 6, 2017

    North Korea calls the sanctions “a frontal attack on our republic and violent infringement on our sovereignty.”
  • Aug. 8, 2017

    President Donald Trump says North Korea will be met with “fire and fury” if it continues threatening the U.S.PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

  • Aug. 9, 2017

    North Korea says it is considering plan to launch four missiles to surround Guam with “enveloping fire.”
  • Aug. 10, 2017

    Mr. Trump ratchets up his rhetoric, saying maybe his threat of fire and fury “wasn’t tough enough.”
  • Aug. 11, 2017

    Mr. Trump tweets that military solutions to the crisis are “in place, locked and loaded.” Separately, Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping discuss North Korea by phone. China says it urged restraint. The U.S. says the leaders affirmed the importance of the new sanctions.
  • Aug. 12, 2017

    The Trump administration announces plan to investigate alleged Chinese intellectual-property theft.
  • Aug. 14, 2017

    China announces ban on imports of coal, iron and seafood from North Korea.
  • Aug. 15, 2017

    North Korea says it has decided not to carry out missile attack on Guam.PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

Source: Staff and news reports

Write to Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com and Lucy Craymer at Lucy.Craymer@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/seoul-warns-u-s-against-unilateral-military-action-against-north-korea-1502781287

North Korea Backs Off Threat to Hit Guam

August 15, 2017

Hours after China took steps to support U.N. sanctions, North Korean state media says Kim Jong Un decided not to fire on Guam

An image from a news bulletin by North Korea state media about the country’s missile launch in July.
An image from a news bulletin by North Korea state media about the country’s missile launch in July. PHOTO: KSNA/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Updated Aug. 14, 2017 11:51 p.m. ET

North Korea pulled back its threat to attack a U.S. territory, after days of trading increasingly bellicose rhetoric with U.S. President Donald Trump, and hours after China took its toughest steps against Pyongyang to support U.N. sanctions.

North Korean state media said Tuesday that Kim Jong Un had made his decision not to fire on Guam after visiting a military command post and examining a military plan presented to him by his senior officers. But it warned that he could change his mind “if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions.”

The turnabout came as the U.S. and China were engaged in a delicate contest on two fronts, with each trying to push the other to handle the North Korea situation in the way it preferred, even while both sparred over trade issues that they insisted were unrelated.

Beijing said it would ban imports of North Korean coal, iron and seafood, starting Tuesday, measures that hew to sanctions passed by the U.N. Security Council this month targeting Pyongyang’s nuclear-arms program. The timing of the announcement was a response to Mr. Trump’s plans to kick off a probe into China’s alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property, according to people with knowledge of the Chinese leadership’s thinking. That probe was officially announced later on Monday.

“This action on North Korea should help ease the renewed trade tensions,” a government adviser involved in making policy said. China had been expected to disclose such steps and said in an official statement that its move was made to enforce the latest U.N. sanctions.

One Week of Escalation With North Korea
An escalation of threats between Washington and Pyongyang has rattled world leaders, injected uncertainty into markets, and sparked fear of a nuclear showdown. The WSJ’s Shelby Holliday takes a look back at the week. Photo: AP

Beijing’s move on North Korean imports followed a weekend phone call between Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on how to deal with North Korea’s advances in developing nuclear weapons and missiles.

Mr. Trump on Friday warned that U.S. military resources were in place, “locked and loaded,” should North Korea “act unwisely.”

North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile program has advanced rapidly, and a missile test in late July put the continental U.S. firmly in range of a strike. Pyongyang this month threatened to lob missiles toward the Pacific island of Guam.

The advances have prompted questions about whether Mr. Kim’s regime obtained Soviet-designed rocket engines. The liquid-propellant rocket engines North Korea has been using in recent tests were probably acquired through illicit channels originating in Ukraine or Russia, a report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies said Monday.

Stephen Noerper, a professor of political science at Columbia University and senior director at the Korea Society, warned tensions on the Korean peninsula were liable to quickly ramp up again, given upcoming joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea slated to begin next week in South Korea.

“I don’t think we should overassume,” he said. “The escalatory nature of things on the peninsula are that you can go from zero to 10 very quickly…This could get very hot again.”

The North Korea Crisis

A timeline of the escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang

  • July 4, 2017

    North Korea test-launches its first intercontinental ballistic missile, a weapon capable of hitting the mainland U.S.
  • July 28, 2017

    A North Korean missile flies even higher in a new test, establishing that if launched at a standard trajectory it could hit the contiguous U.S. states and possibly go as far as Denver and Chicago.PHOTO: KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Aug. 5, 2017

    In a show of unanimity, the United Nations Security Council approves new sanctions against North Korea.
  • Aug. 6, 2017

    North Korea calls the sanctions “a frontal attack on our republic and violent infringement on our sovereignty.”
  • Aug. 8, 2017

    President Donald Trump says North Korea will be met with “fire and fury” if it continues threatening the U.S.PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

  • Aug. 9, 2017

    North Korea says it is considering plan to launch four missiles to surround Guam with “enveloping fire.”
  • Aug. 10, 2017

    Mr. Trump ratchets up his rhetoric, saying maybe his threat of fire and fury “wasn’t tough enough.”
  • Aug. 11, 2017

    Mr. Trump tweets that military solutions to the crisis are “in place, locked and loaded.” Separately, Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping discuss North Korea by phone. China says it urged restraint. The U.S. says the leaders affirmed the importance of the new sanctions.
  • Aug. 12, 2017

    The Trump administration announces plan to investigate alleged Chinese intellectual-property theft.
  • Aug. 14, 2017

    China announces ban on imports of coal, iron and seafood from North Korea.
  • Aug. 15, 2017

    North Korea says it has decided not to carry out missile attack on Guam.PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

Source: Staff and news reports

Earlier on Monday in Seoul, before news of Mr. Kim’s decision, Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. must take threats from North Korea seriously, despite fresh skepticism from South Korea that Pyongyang has the ability to reliably deliver an intercontinental ballistic missile to the U.S.

“I honestly think it’s an academic issue whether it can happen today or happen tomorrow,” Gen. Dunford told reporters after wrapping up meetings with South Korea’s president and other defense officials.

Gen. Dunford noted that North Korea had conducted missile and nuclear tests “at a historic rate”—at least 15 tests in the past year.

But uncertainty remains about the North’s ability to endanger the American homeland or even Guam.

Those doubts were underscored Sunday by a senior South Korean defense official, who said that both Seoul and Washington had concluded Pyongyang lacks the missile re-entry technology to successfully launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at the continental U.S.

John Delury, a China historian and North Korea expert at Yonsei University in Seoul, said Mr. Kim’s decision was likely a response to more tempered language from the Trump administration over the weekend, including from Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo, national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and Secretaries of State and Defense Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis.

“The signaling from the Trump administration dialed it down a notch—we have to give them credit,” Mr. Delury said. Referring to an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, Mr. Delury added, “When’s the last time the secretary of state and the secretary of defense wrote an op-ed together?”

Mr. Trump’s move on Monday was part of an effort to juggle Washington’s competing policy goals with China, balancing the desire for more cooperation in controlling North Korea against a desire to curb the $347 billion bilateral trade deficit.

Mr. Trump made no mention of China’s import ban while at the White House signing ceremony on Monday in which he directed aides to explore the prospect of sanctioning Beijing for the “unfair” acquisition of American technology. He also offered no indication that tensions with China had eased: He said as he signed the directive that “this is just the beginning.”

The directive was the first formal China trade action taken by a president who has long blasted the country for improperly aggressive commercial practices.

“We will stand up to any country that unlawfully forces American companies to transfer their valuable technology as a condition of market access,” Mr. Trump said, echoing a complaint made frequently by U.S. firms seeking entry to the world’s second largest economy. “The theft of intellectual property by foreign countries costs our nation millions of jobs and billions and billions of dollars each and every year,” he added.

While Mr. Trump’s tone was tough, the process he launched was measured.

He specifically ordered his trade representative to begin a study into whether to launch a formal investigation about complaints that Beijing forces multinationals to license valuable technology to Chinese companies as the price of entry into China’s markets. Aides said if the investigation does proceed, it could take a year before any decisions are made on imposing trade sanctions.

Mr. Trump has said he would cut Beijing slack over trade disputes if he felt the Chinese were being helpful in reining in Pyongyang. But there is a difference of opinion within the administration on whether to keep economic and security issues on separate tracks, said a person who was briefed on the process of formulating Monday’s China order.

The White House had originally planned to unveil the China probe in early August, but put the announcement off until after China voted on Aug. 5 in support of the Security Council resolution on North Korea, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

Asked whether the White House was linking its handling of China trade pressure with the North Korea issue, a senior administration official said “these are totally unrelated events.”

China, too, separated the issues. “The North Korean nuclear issue and the China-U.S. trade issue are totally different and it is not appropriate to use one as a tool to keep pressure on the other issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Monday before the move to curb North Korean imports.

She said China has been improving its regulations on intellectual property rights, while boosting social awareness of the issue.

North Korean state media didn’t immediately comment on China’s announcement.

China is by far North Korea’s biggest trading partner, accounting for more than 80% of North Korea’s external trade for the past five years.

China has long shied away from severe punitive steps, such as cutting off fuel and food supplies, that could trigger the collapse of the North Korean regime.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly questioned China’s willingness to ratchet up pressure on North Korea.

In recent months, his administration moved toward unilaterally tightening sanctions, targeting Chinese companies and banks the U.S. says are funneling cash into Pyongyang’s weapons program.

Beijing has resisted Washington’s suggestions that it isn’t doing enough to pressure Pyongyang, saying the U.S. must directly engage North Korea to curb its nuclear ambitions.

Write to Chun Han Wong at chunhan.wong@wsj.com, Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com and Jacob M. Schlesinger at jacob.schlesinger@wsj.com

Appeared in the August 15, 2017, print edition.

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-bans-key-north-korean-imports-1502703030

 

Both Korean Leaders, US Signal Turn to Diplomacy Amid Crisis

August 15, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s military on Tuesday presented leader Kim Jong Un with plans to launch missiles into waters near Guam and “wring the windpipes of the Yankees,” even as both Koreas and the United States signaled their willingness to avert a deepening crisis, with each suggesting a path toward negotiations.

The tentative interest in diplomacy follows unusually combative threats between President Donald Trump and North Korea amid worries that Pyongyang is nearing its long-sought goal of accurately being able to send a nuclear missile to the U.S. mainland. Next week’s start of U.S.-South Korean military exercises that enrage the North each year make it unclear, however, if diplomacy will prevail.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting, child and outdoor

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un celebrates a successful ICBM launch with scientists and technicians of the DPRK

During an inspection of the North Korean army’s Strategic Forces, which handles the missile program, Kim praised the military for drawing up a “close and careful plan” and said he would watch the “foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” a little more before deciding whether to order the missile test, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said. Kim appeared in photos sitting at a table with a large map marked by a straight line between what appeared to be northeastern North Korea and Guam, and passing over Japan — apparently showing the missiles’ flight route.

The missile plans were previously announced. Kim said North Korea would conduct the launches if the “Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity,” and that the United States should “think reasonably and judge properly” to avoid shaming itself, the news agency said.

Image result for moon, dunford, photos

South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford during their meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, August 14, 2017. Bae Jae-man/Yonhap via REUTERS

Lobbing missiles toward Guam, a major U.S. military hub in the Pacific, would be a deeply provocative act from the U.S. perspective, and a miscalculation on either side could lead to a military clash. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said the United States would take out any such missile seen to be heading for American soil and declared any such North Korean attack could mean war

Kim’s comments, however, with their conditional tone, seemed to hold out the possibility that friction could ease if the United States made some sort of gesture that Pyongyang considered a move to back away from previous “extremely dangerous reckless actions.”

That could refer to the U.S.-South Korean military drills set to begin Monday, which the North claims are rehearsals for invasion. It also could refer to the B-1B bombers that the U.S. has occasionally flown over the Korean Peninsula as a show of force.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, meanwhile, a liberal who favors engagement with the North, urged North Korea to stop provocations and to commit to talks over its nuclear weapons program.

Moon, in a televised speech Tuesday on the anniversary of the end of World War II and the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, said that Seoul and Washington agree that the crisis over the North’s nuclear program should “absolutely be solved peacefully,” and that no U.S. military action on the Korean Peninsula could be taken without Seoul’s consent.

Moon said the North could create conditions for talks by stopping nuclear and missile tests.

“Our government will put everything on the line to prevent another war on the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said. “Regardless of whatever twist and turns we could experience, the North Korean nuclear program should absolutely be solved peacefully, and the (South Korean) government and the U.S. government don’t have a different position on this.”

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, on Monday met with senior South Korean military and political officials and the local media, and made comments that appeared to be an attempt to ease anxiety while also showing a willingness to back Trump’s warnings if need be.

Dunford said the United States wants to peacefully resolve tensions with North Korea, but Washington is also ready to use the “full range” of its military capabilities in case of provocation.

Dunford is visiting South Korea, Japan and China after a week in which Trump declared the U.S. military “locked and loaded” and said he was ready to unleash “fire and fury” if North Korea continued to threaten the United States.

North Korea’s military had said last week it would finalize and send to Kim for approval the plan to fire four ballistic missiles near Guam, which is about 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) from Pyongyang.

The plans are based on the Hwasong-12, a new missile the country successfully flight-tested for the first time in May. The liquid-fuel missile is designed to be fired from road mobile launchers and has been previously described by North Korea as built for attacking Alaska and Hawaii.

The North followed the May launch with two flight tests of its Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile last month. Analysts said that a wide swath of the continental United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago, could be within reach of those missiles, once they’re perfected.

The North’s latest report said Kim ordered his military to be prepared to launch the missiles toward Guam at any time. Kim said that if the “planned fire of power demonstration” is carried out because of U.S. recklessness, it will be “the most delightful historic moment when the Hwasong artillerymen will wring the windpipes of the Yankees and point daggers at their necks,” the North reported.

North Korea is angry about new United Nations sanctions over its expanding nuclear weapons and missile program and the upcoming military drills between Washington and Seoul.

Kim said the United States must “make a proper option first and show it through action, as it committed provocations after introducing huge nuclear strategic equipment into the vicinity of the peninsula” and that it “should stop at once arrogant provocations” against North Korea, state media said.

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AP writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.