Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’

North Korea Test-Fires Ballistic Missile in Defiance of World Pressure

April 29, 2017

SEOUL — North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on Saturday shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that failure to curb its nuclear and ballistic missile programs could lead to “catastrophic consequences”.

U.S. and South Korean officials said the test, from an area north of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, appeared to have failed, in what would be North Korea’s fourth successive unsuccessful missile test since March.

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A man watches a TV news program reporting about North Korea’s missile firing with a file footage, at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 29, 2017. Lee Jin-man – AP

The test came as the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula, where it will join the USS Michigan, a guided missile submarine that docked in South Korea on Tuesday.

Tillerson, in a U.N. Security Council meeting on North Korea, repeated the Trump administration’s position that all options were on the table if Pyongyang persisted with its nuclear and missile development.

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“The threat of a nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is real, and it’s only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland,” Tillerson said.

“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who told Reuters in an interview on Thursday North Korea was his biggest global challenge, said the launch was an affront to China, the North’s sole main ally.

“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!,” Trump said in a post on Twitter after the launch.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the U.N. meeting on Friday it was not only up to China to solve the North Korean problem.

“The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” Wang said.

Both China and Russia rebuked a U.S. threat of military force.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the North Koreans had probably tested a medium-range missile known as a KN-17 and it appeared to have broken up within minutes of taking off.

The South Korean military said the missile, fired from the Pukchang region in a northeasterly direction, reached an altitude of 71 km (44 miles) before disintegrating a few minutes into flight. It said the launch was a clear violation of U.N. resolutions and warned the North not to act rashly.

The North has been conducting missile and nuclear weapons related activities at an unprecedented rate since the beginning of the year and is believed to have made some progress in developing intermediate-range and submarine-launched missiles.

The United States has been hoping North Korea’s sole major ally, China, can bring pressure to bear. But China says the United States must not over-estimate the influence it has over its neighbor.

There was no immediate reaction to the launch from China.

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China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivers remarks outside the Security Council at United Nations headquarters, Friday, April 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)


Trump, in his interview with Reuters, said he had praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping for “trying very hard” on North Korea, though Trump warned a “major, major conflict” between the United States and North Korea was possible.

Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high for weeks over fears the North may conduct a long-range missile test, or its sixth nuclear test, around the time of the April 15 anniversary of its state founder’s birth, or the day marking the founding of its military.

With North Korea acting in defiance of the pressure, the United States could conduct new naval drills and deploy more ships and aircraft in the region, a U.S. official told Reuters.

Japan condemned the launch as unacceptable and authorities stopped some train services in Japan as a precaution, in case the missile had been fired at Japan, a transit system spokesman said.

A Japanese military official said its navy on Saturday completed an exercise with the Carl Vinson in the channel separating the Korean peninsula from Japan, meaning the U.S. carrier had arrived in the Sea of Japan.


Kim Dong-yub, an expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said North Korea might have got the data it wanted with the missile’s short flight, then blown it up in a bid to limit the anger of China, which disapproves of the North’s weapons programs and has warned it against further provocation.

North Korea rattled world powers in February when it successfully launched a new intermediate-range ballistic missile that it said could carry a nuclear weapon. It also successfully tested ballistic missiles on March 6.

It is not clear what has caused the series of failed missile tests since then.

The Trump administration could respond to the test by speeding up its plans for new U.S. sanctions, including possible measures against specific North Korean and Chinese entities, said the U.S. official, who declined to be identified.

“Something that’s ready to go could be taken from the larger package and expedited,” said the official.

The U.N. Security Council is likely to start discussing a statement to condemn the missile launch, said diplomats. The Security Council traditionally condemns all missile launches by Pyongyang.

But condemnations and sanctions resolutions since 2006, when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, have done little to impede its push for ballistic missiles and nuclear arms.

The South Korean politician expected to win a May 9 presidential election, Moon Jae-in, who has advocated a more moderate policy on the North, called the test an “exercise in futility”.

“We urge again the Kim Jong Un regime to immediately stop reckless provocative acts and choose the path to cooperate with the international community,” Park Kwang-on, a spokesman for Moon, said in a statement, referring to the North Korean leader.

Moon has been critical of the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system in the South intended to counter North Korea’s missile threat, which China also strongly objects to.

(Additional reporting by Soyoung Kim in SEOUL, Idrees Ali, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in WASHINGTON, Tim Kelly in TOKYO and Michelle Nichols and Lesley Wroughton at the United Nations; Editing Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel)



A New North Korean Missile Test Ends in Failure

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launched a missile on Saturday, even as the United States and China have been seeking to curb the North’s military ambitions. But the test ended in failure, the South Korean military said. It was the second consecutive failure in the past two weeks.

The missile took off from a location near Pukchang, northeast of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, the South Korean military said in a statement. It did not identify what type of missile was launched.

Cmdr. Dave Benham, a spokesman for the United States Pacific Command, said the American military had “detected what we assess was a North Korean missile launch” from near the Pukchang airfield.

“The missile did not leave North Korean territory,” Commander Benham added. “The North American Aerospace Defense Command determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.”

The U.S. Navy Must Be Everywhere at Once

April 28, 2017

A recent mishap with the USS Carl Vinson is a case study for rebuilding the fleet to about 350 ships.

The USS Bataan fires a missile during exercises in the Atlantic Ocean, Jan. 11.

The USS Bataan fires a missile during exercises in the Atlantic Ocean, Jan. 11. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was steaming toward North Korea, the Trump administration insisted two weeks ago. Except that it wasn’t. A Navy press photo showed it thousands of miles away, near Indonesia, and heading south. The official explanation was that the Carl Vinson had to complete a scheduled joint exercise with Australia before turning back to deal with the imminent threat to world peace. The error was compounded by President Trump’s statement that he would be sending submarines “far more powerful than an aircraft carrier”—which is of course absurd.

This episode is a small symptom of America’s weakened Navy. Today, as in the 1920s and ’30s, Washington has forgotten Teddy Roosevelt’s advice to speak softly and carry a big stick. Instead the U.S. lashes out at adversaries with ultimatums, sanctions and embargoes while disarming. Although all branches of the military went through budget and personnel cuts under the Obama administration, the Navy fared the worst. Today the American fleet is less than half the size it was under President Reagan.

Two independent bipartisan commissions have called for the fleet to be increased from its roughly 270 ships to 350, a number President Trump has said he supports. The Navy’s 2016 Force Structure Assessment calls for 355 ships. These proposals weigh budget constraints; otherwise the target would be higher.

During the 1960s the fleet numbered above 800. But after the Vietnam War, the U.S. sought a “peace dividend” and ordered the Navy to do more with less. Historically, a sailor’s maximum deployment was six months away from family in any 18-month period. Today deployments stretch to nine months or longer. Skilled sailors are being worn out, and many of the best are leaving. We have too few ships on too many crucial missions. Without the funding to keep them in repair, they deploy without being combat-ready and are eventually forced into early retirement. Many of the Navy’s combat aircraft are unable to fly without awaiting parts and repair.

Thankfully, Mr. Trump has promised to bolster America’s defenses as Reagan did in the 1980s. Let us hope for a bipartisan defense recovery. The first priority must be for the White House to settle on a national strategy to replace the ad hoc decision-making of the past 20 years. Then the new Navy secretary and the chief of naval operations can create a comprehensive naval strategy to match. This process will provide a framework to prioritize Navy and Marine programs.

As in the Reagan years, there are opportunities to rebuild rapidly. At least eight Perry-class frigates could be reactivated, along with a similar number of Aegis cruisers and a half-dozen supply ships. These combat craft were retired early, some at only half their service life. Outfitting them with updated weapons could create immediate work at ports on all three coasts.

The next step is to reform the overgrown defense bureaucracy and overhaul the Pentagon’s dysfunctional procurement process. According to the Government Accountability Office, cost overruns have ballooned to more than $450 billion over the past two decades. The Navy needs to take authority back from the bureaucracy, end the culture of constant design changes and gold-plating, and bring back fixed-price competition.

Recall the development of the Polaris nuclear-missile system in the late 1950s. The whole package—a nuclear submarine, a solid-fuel missile, an underwater launch system, a nuclear warhead and a guidance system—went from the drawing board to deployment in four years (and using slide rules). Today, according to the Defense Business Board, the average development timeline for much less complex weapons is 22.5 years.

A case in point is the Ford-class aircraft carrier. The program is two years delayed and $2.4 billion over budget. The ship was designed to include 12 new technologies, such as electric instead of steam catapults that had not yet been developed. Many of these systems don’t work after 10 years of trying, and the ship will be delivered to the Navy without fully functional radar and unable to launch or recover aircraft. Yet the defense firms involved still profit under cost-plus contracts.

The three stealthy Zumwalt-class destroyers—they are really heavy cruisers—are another example. The defense bureaucracy produced a seagoing camel costing three times its original estimate and delivered with questionable seaworthiness and without functional radar or a reliable propulsion system. The program should be terminated and the three contracted ships kept purely for special operations.

The Navy urgently needs to replace the Perry-class frigates, built in the 1980s and now all retired. Instead of designing a ship from scratch, the Navy could update the Perry plans to include modern sonar, radar and missiles. Or it could adapt one of two European frigates for American construction. The 26 small coastal LCS ships now under contract are enough. That design cannot be modified into a frigate, so the program should be terminated.

The Navy is also short on aircraft, with roughly half the number needed to maintain even the current force structure. The Pentagon should make the F-35 compete against the F-18 to establish the optimum—and lowest-cost—mix of both aircraft. In the future, drones will play an important role on carriers and may evolve into the dominant system. But that day is not yet here.

President Reagan showed that 90% of the benefits from restoring American command of the seas are reaped immediately. President Trump will learn the same. Russia, with its professional but small one-carrier navy, cannot challenge a rebuilt U.S. Navy. The Chinese are at least two decades away from matching American capabilities. With renewed commitment to naval and military superiority, American diplomacy will instantly regain credibility.

Mr. Lehman, secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, is the author of the forthcoming “Oceans Ventured, Oceans Gained” (W.W. Norton).

Appeared in the Apr. 28, 2017, print edition.

UN Security Council hears tough talk against North Korea — China says “The key to stopping the problem does not lie in (Beijing).” — Russia calls tough talk “completely unacceptable.” — NOTE TO TRUMP: Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are NOT your friends

April 28, 2017

The UN meeting comes as security tensions rise between North Korea and the United States and its allies. Washington reiterates willingness to use force but Russia calls such talk “completely unacceptable.”

Alltagsleben in Nordkorea (DW/A. Foncillas )

The United Nations Security Council heard tough words from its own secretary-general, the US secretary of state and Japan’s foreign minister – all calling for tougher action to halt North Korea’s ongoing nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“We implore North Korea to stop tests immediately,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told the Council on Friday. “I stand ready to assist in any way possible.”

For more than two decades, North Korea has slowly but steadily been developing a nuclear weapons arsenal as well as a ballistic missile program with weapons capable of striking more distant targets. The result has been increased tensions between North Korea and the United States and its allies, particularly Japan and South Korea, who fear Pyongyang may launch a military attack.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington wants more pressure on member states to impose existing sanctions and called for imposing new sanctions, as well.

“We much prefer a negotiated solution to this problem but are committed to defending ourselves and our allies,” Tillerson told the Council.

“For the past 20 years, well-intentioned efforts to dismantle the program have failed,” he added. “With each test, North Korea pushes Asia and the world closer to conflict. It is likely only a matter of time before North Korea is able to strike the US homeland.

“The policy of strategic patience is over. The more we bide our time the sooner we will run out of it. The time has come to put new pressure on North Korea. I urge the council to act before North Korea does,” Tillerson said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov agreed that North Korea needs to mend its ways, telling the council that Pyongyang “is conducting itself in an inappropriate way.”

But he also rejected Washington’s tough rhetoric.

“At the same time, options of using force are completely unacceptable and could lead to catastrophic consequences.”

Japan cites real threat

Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, also had tough words for Pyongyang, adding that the threat facing his island nation is real, noting that when North Korea recently test-fired a series of missiles into the sea, three of them “landed within Japan’s economic zone.”

No one was hurt in the tests, but he said the result “could have been catastrophic.”

He also called on Pyongyang to resume multiparty talks aimed at achieving international agreement.

“In 2005, North Korea together with China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US unanimously reaffirmed the goal of the six-party talks,” he said. “All parties expect North Korea to remain committed to this position.

“There is no doubt dialogue is necessary to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea,” he continued, “but meaningful dialogue is clearly not possible (now). The international community must send a strong message that provocation comes at a high price. Japan calls on all member states to increase pressure on North Korea.”

Trump and Xi

US President Donald Trump hosted his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping earlier this month and came away praising the Chinese leader for his willingness to try and rein in North Korea’s military ambitions.

But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the UN Security Council that both sides bore responsibility for the growing tensions.

“The problem is not the result of only one country and it’s unrealistic to ask one country to make all the concessions,” Wang said.

He also sought to downplay the level of influence Beijing can wield over North Korea’s actions, saying “The key to stopping the problem does not lie in (Beijing).”

Nonetheless, China has proposed freezing Pyongyang’s military programs in exchange for ending US-South Korea military drills, which the North views at threatening.

The US has rejected China’s propsal, saying North Korea must take steps to show it is willing to abandon its miltiary programs.

But Russia’s Gatilov said China’s proposals are worthy of consideration, calling them “ideas that merit serious attention.”

bik/sms (DW, AFP)


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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, listens Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, speaks during a Ministerial level Security Council meeting on the situation in North Korea, Friday, April 28, 2017 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Tillerson calls for ‘painful’ measures to punish North Korea

Tillerson: ‘We must be willing to face the hard truths’ on North Korea

On April 28, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged nations of the United Nations Security Council to pressure anew North Korea to “dismantle” its nuclear weapons program. (The Washington Post)

The Washington Post
April 28 at 10:55 AM
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Friday for new economic sanctions on North Korea and other “painful” measures over its nuclear weapons program, and he asked other countries to suspend diplomatic relations with the communist regime.
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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. AP photo
Tillerson’s push at a special session of the U.N. Security Council came as the Trump administration signaled it is willing to bargain directly with North Korea over ending its nuclear weapons program, but under strict conditions.“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” Tillerson said. “The more we bide our time, the sooner we will run out of it.”Past diplomatic efforts to talk North Korea out of its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities have failed, Tillerson said during the unusual high-level session called to review what the Trump administration calls its most dire national security concern.In blunt terms, Tillerson said North Korea is unlikely to give up its weapons or change its bellicose behavior under current sanctions and diplomatic condemnations. He said new economic penalties are necessary, as well as more vigorous enforcement of existing sanctions that he said North Korea has found ways to evade.

President Trump said April 28 that he’s pressing for a diplomatic solution to the standoff with North Korea over its nuclear program, but a military confrontation can’t be ruled out. (Reuters)

“I urge this council to act before North Korea does,” Tillerson said. “We must work together to adopt a new approach and impose increased diplomatic and economic pressure on the North Korean regime.”

In a clear warning to North Korean ally China, Tillerson said nations that help North Korea evade sanctions or tolerate illicit trade that supports the regime “discredit this body.”

“We must levy new sanctions on DPRK entities and individuals supporting its weapons and missile programs, and tighten those already in place,” he said, using the acronym for the country’s formal name Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea.

Tillerson’s call for new sanctions followed remarks by President Trump that direct conflict is possible.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters in an interview this week.

The president added: “We’d love to solve things diplomatically, but it’s very difficult.”

Tillerson noted that China accounts for 90 percent of North Korean trade, giving it unique economic leverage.

He said the United States and China have had productive discussions about North Korea, and the new U.S. willingness to negotiate with North Korea is partly in deference to China’s long insistence that the only way to lessen tension is through direct talks.

“The United States also would much prefer countries and people in question own up to their lapses and correct their behavior themselves, but we will not hesitate to sanction third country entities and individuals supporting the DPRK’s illegal activities.”

He asked other nations to suspend or downgrade diplomatic relations with the regime, which he said has used diplomatic privileges to evade sanctions and flout the U.N. Security Council.

“Constraining its diplomatic activity will cut off a flow of needed resources. In light of North Korea’s recent actions, normal relations with the DPRK are unacceptable,” Tillerson said.

He also asked other countries to stop any trade with North Korea that can indirectly fund the country’s nuclear and missile programs, called for bans to prevent North Korean imports, especially coal and an end to a guest worker program that brings in low-cot labor to North Korea.

In the most detailed explanation of the new Trump administration’s emerging policy for dealing with North Korea, Tillerson said U.S. urgency is driven by the current nuclear threat to allies South Korea and Japan as well as the likelihood that North Korea will soon be able to strike the United States.

“All options for responding to future provocation must remain on the table. Diplomatic and financial levers of power will be backed up by a willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action if necessary,” Tillerson said.

“We much prefer a negotiated solution to this problem. But we are committed to defending ourselves and our allies against North Korean aggression.”

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, who joined Tillerson and foreign ministers from countries that sit on the decision-making council, condemned what he called North Korea’s repeated violations of the body’s resolutions over nuclear and missile testing and development.

“I am alarmed by the risk of a military escalation in the region, including by miscalculation or misunderstanding,” Guterres said.

The U.N. Security Council session Friday comes at a particularly tense time in relations between North Korea and the United States, with the Trump administration sending warships to the region in a show of force against Kim Jong Un’s regime.

This week, North Korea conducted large-scale artillery drills, showing off conventional weaponry that can easily reach South Korea’s capital, Seoul, the center of a metropolitan region that is home to about 25 million people.

A North Korean propaganda outlet released a video clip on Thursday showing a simulated attack on the White House and declaring that ability to destroy the United States “is in our sights.”

The Trump administration has said that military action to head off further North Korean nuclear weapons development is not out of the question, but it remains unlikely. A goal of future U.N. diplomacy could be to draw lines for when escalation by North Korea would justify retaliatory action by the United States or others, diplomats and arms control experts said.

At issue is the simultaneous effort in North Korea to perfect a nuclear warhead that could be delivered far from its shores and develop missiles with a range long enough to be a threat to the United States. Undeterred, analysts believe North Korea could have that capability within a few years — likely during Trump’s first term in office. North Korea already possesses missiles able to threaten U.S. allies South Korea and Japan, as well as other Asian neighbors.

In interviews Thursday with NPR and Fox News, Tillerson said the United States is willing to talk to North Korea once North Korea takes steps to show it is ready for a productive discussion.

In setting terms for direct talks — that they be directed at getting rid of North Korea’s nuclear weapons entirely, rather than freezing the program in exchange for economic benefits — Tillerson said the Trump administration is taking a tougher line than in past efforts by both Democratic and Republican administrations, but it still caries strong echoes of earlier policy.

At the Security Council, Tillerson said the United States prefers a diplomatic solution.

“North Korea must understand that respect will never follow recklessness,” he said. “North Korea must take concrete steps to reduce the threat that its illegal weapons programs pose to the United States and our allies before we can consider talks.”

The last round of direct talks, initiated in 2003 and involving the United States, China and other nations, produced no rollback of the North Korean program. Last month, during his first trip to South Korea, Japan and China, Tillerson declared that the “era of strategic patience” that included those talks was over, and that “all options” were now on the table.

“I first spoke to the Chinese on my first trip to Beijing to make clear to them that we were unwilling to negotiate our way to the negotiating table,” Tillerson said in the Fox News interview. “And I think that’s the mistakes of the past,” he added. “The regime in North Korea has to position itself in a different place in order for us to be willing to engage in talks.”

Trump has been urging China to apply pressure on North Korea and has warned that his administration will act if Beijing does not.

China supports talks and has long argued that although it also wants to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons, it cannot persuade North Korea to give them up without direct assurances from the United States.

Tillerson offered some Friday, telling the council that the United States is not seeking “regime change” to topple the family dynasty of Kim Jong Un.

Although the council is not voting on new sanctions or other measures Friday, the Trump administration hoped for a show of force with the entire council, including China, Russia, and the United States, coming together to air concerns about North Korea’s behavior.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the council that diplomacy is not hopeless, and he said China cannot be expected to rein in North Korea on its own.

“The state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula is not caused by any single party, nor is it reasonable to ask any party to take sole responsblity,” Wang said via an interpreter.

“We call upon all parties, especially those directly concerned — DPRK and the U.S. — to demonstrate sincerity for dialogue and restart dialogue,” Wang said. “China will be open too all useful proposals from the parties.”

Showing a willingness to hold talks with North Korea could help the United States get a more unified front, but Washington risks alienating other Security Council members if it tries to set terms other countries would see as unrealistic.

“Until and unless the United States shows a willingness to engage in at least ‘talks about talks’ with North Korea, it is very unlikely they will agree to support new sanctions against North Korea,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “If Trump and his team insist on a North Korean commitment to ‘denuclearization’ before talks can begin, other members of [the] council will see the U.S. call for ‘engagement’ as unserious and will not support new … sanctions.”

Opinion: Trump’s Korean dilemma

April 28, 2017

Deutsche Welle

Are “all options” really on the table, as Donald Trump says, when it comes to dealing with North Korea? In reality, says guest contributor Peter Sturm, the military options are very limited.

Nordkorea Militärparade (Reuters/KCNA )

It’s a phrase that’s part of the standard repertory whenever the United States talks about North Korea. And now the Trump administration, too, insists that “all options” are on the table. A UN resolution should impose further sanctions on North Korea. In principle, Washington is open to negotiations. That all sounds a lot like continuity, and in principle, that’s good news.

What is the target?

But that’s also the point where the questions start. How will Washington ensure that China really does implement the sanctions agreed by the United Nations? What exactly is there to negotiate about with North Korea, if you see “negotiating” as meaning that everyone has to make some concessions? And then there’s the big question: What military options are realistic? You quickly reach a dead end considering that question.

Of course, the US could launch a preemptive strike – as was the case with the attack in Syria. But on what target? If it were to bomb the atomic test site, there’s a big danger that radioactive material could be released that would affect neighboring Chinese territory. A “decapitating strike” against Kim Jong-un’s leadership would cause large-scale chaos, but it would barely impact North Korea’s military capability. An attack, then, on the border region and the troops stationed there, who are among the best that North Korea’s military has to offer?

Sturm Peter Kommentarbild App PROVISORISCHGuest contributor and “FAZ” editor Peter Sturm

Classic case of self-deterrence

All of this is possible in theory. But even if just a very small number of artillery and/or rocket batteries remain intact, that’s more than enough to do serious damage to US ally South Korea (which Donald Trump has promised to protect). The South Korean capital Seoul is located close to the border with North Korea, and is so big that the North Korean projectiles wouldn’t even have to be that accurate. Korea is dealing with a classic scenario of self-deterrence. Is there no way out? Kim Jong-un has put his country and his people into a perpetual state of emotional emergency. The worst thing that can happen to him is if nothing happens. Then, North Koreans might have a chance to remember that they are not doing well – and to ask themselves why that is the case.

Peter Sturm is an editor at the German daily newspaper “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (FAZ).

US doesn’t rule out direct talks with North Korea: Tillerson

April 28, 2017


© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in Washington on April 19, 2017

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States is not ruling out direct dialogue with North Korea on its nuclear program, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in an interview with National Public Radio broadcast Friday.

“Obviously, that would be the way we would like to solve this,” he said, when asked whether Washington seeks direct talks with Pyongyang.

“But North Korea has to decide they’re ready to talk to us about the right agenda — and the right agenda is not simply stopping where they are for a few more months or a few more years and then resuming things.”

Tillerson has previously said “the era of strategic patience is over.” He stressed in the NPR interview that what Washington now seeks is dialogue.

“Our approach to North Korea is to have them change their posture towards any future talks,” he said.

“I think when we say the era of strategic patience is over — in the past I think we have always negotiated our way to the negotiating table… We don’t have the running room left to do that now, given how far advanced their program has become.

“So this is an approach that is to put pressure on them through implementation of all the sanctions, as well as other diplomatic pressures, and calling on others to cause them to change their view of what will really allow them to achieve the security that they say they seek.”

The United States has called for stronger UN sanctions on North Korea, but wants China to take the lead in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.

Tillerson’s interview came ahead of a UN Security Council meeting chaired by Tillerson, to push for a tougher response to North Korea and pile pressure on China to rein in its ally.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will attend the meeting that follows weeks of warnings from the US administration that it will no longer tolerate North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear tests.

© 2017 AFP


Trump Challenges North Korea in High-Stakes Game of Risk

April 28, 2017

U.S. president appears to be trying to change perception that Pyongyang has higher tolerance for conflict and loss of life

Related image


Updated April 28, 2017 7:00 a.m. ET


Over a campfire in Mexico two decades ago, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations explained to an American how his country keeps the U.S. military at bay: “We’re more willing to cut off a leg than you are a pinkie.”.

President Donald Trump appears to be trying to change that perception.


“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Mr. Trump told Reuters on Thursday. His remarks kept alive the threat of force against Pyongyang over its nuclear program—even as other senior U.S. officials have raised the prospect of talks that could leave North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in place.

To some longtime North Korea watchers there are parallels with the authoritarian state’s own brinkmanship diplomacy. Trading on its perceived higher tolerance for conflict and loss of life, North Korea for decades has used the prospect of war to gain leverage in negotiations—winning aid and security guarantees before eventually beginning a new cycle of threats.

The threats are taken seriously because of the hundreds of artillery units North Korea has on its southern border, capable of devastating the South Korean capital of Seoul in minutes. Half of the South Korean population of 50 million people—and thousands of American civilians and servicemen—lives in greater Seoul.

In raising the prospect of conflict and sending a U.S. aircraft carrier to waters around North Korea, Mr. Trump appears willing to signal to the North Koreans he’d accept that possibility.

“North Korea has had a monopoly on the game of risk, but Trump is playing now, too,” said Jasper Kim, an expert on negotiation strategy at the Center for Conflict Management at Ewha University in Seoul.

Mr. Kim sees the origins of Mr. Trump’s approach in his background in New York real estate, a business that is often a high-stakes game of risk taking. He says it is likely the North Koreans will recognize and respond seriously to the U.S. tactic, even if it is possible Pyongyang may escalate further, perhaps with another nuclear test.

There is also recent precedent to suggest North Korea may de-escalate. In 2015, three years after Mr. Kim came to power, the country gave South Korea 48 hours to silence loudspeakers broadcasting anti-Pyongyang propaganda over the border, or face attack. Seoul said it would ignore the deadline and retaliate if attacked—and Pyongyang called for talks that eventually resolved the standoff.

A remark Thursday by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raising the possibility of talks if North Korea pursues “the right agenda” could be a tactic to provide the Kim regime with a similar off-ramp in this latest crisis.

Even if high-stakes tactics pay off, they don’t appear to be part of a coherent long-term strategy, said Gordon Flake, a Korea specialist at the Perth USAsia Centre in Australia.

The view from an observation post in Paju, South Korea.

The view from an observation post in Paju, South Korea. PHOTO: CHUNG SUNG-JUN/GETTY IMAGES

In that same Reuters interview, he notes, Mr. Trump brought up seeking payment from South Korea for an American system intended to shield the country from a North Korean missile attack. That message will undermine faith in the U.S. as an ally, he said, inevitably leading countries such as South Korea and Japan to consider hedging their ties with the U.S.

It could also embolden North Korea, which has long sought to weaken ties between the U.S. and South Korea.

“There are such crossed messages on every front,” said Mr. Flake, the American who recounted the campfire conversation with North Korea’s U.N. ambassador, which took place in 1998 while he was working for the Atlantic Council, a U.S. think tank.

Write to Alastair Gale at

ASEAN Expresses Alarm Over N. Korea Nuclear Tests, Missiles

April 28, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — Southeast Asian nations expressed “grave concern” Friday over North Korea’s nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches despite a plea from Pyongyang not to be subjected to such pressure.

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations issued their statement Friday on the eve of an ASEAN leaders’ annual summit in Manila, saying the instability on the Korean Peninsula “seriously impacts the region and beyond.”

The 10-nation regional bloc also urged North Korea and all parties concerned “to exercise self-restraint in order to de-escalate the tension and refrain from actions that may aggravate the situation,” adding its voice to a growing international alarm over the crisis involving the North and its rivals led by the United States.

President Donald Trump’s administration has declared that all options, including a targeted military strike, are on the table to block North Korea from carrying out threats against the United States and its allies in the region. But a pre-emptive attack isn’t likely, U.S. officials have said, and the administration is pursuing a strategy of putting pressure on Pyongyang with assistance from China, North Korea’s main trading partner and the country’s economic lifeline.

North Korea has been quietly reaching out to other nations to ease criticism amid the barrage of U.S. threats, according to a Philippine official.

Pyongyang sent its Bangkok-based ambassador to Manila recently “to suggest that North Korea not be put under pressure” during the ASEAN meetings hosted by the Philippines, said the official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the matter with the press.

One such meeting is the ASEAN Regional Forum, or ARF, in August, which is attended by the foreign ministers including those from the U.S. and North Korea. It is one of Asia’s most high-profile security forums.


ASEAN ministers ask North Korea to exercise self-restraint

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers, from left, Malaysia Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, Myanmar Foreign Minister U Kyaw Tin, Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinal, Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Philippine acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Brunei Daruasalam Foreign Minister Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng, Cambodia Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, Laos Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith, ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh pose for a group photo during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM) in metropolitan Manila, Philippines on Friday, April 28, 2017. The Philippines is hosting the annual ASEAN Leaders’ Summit this weekend. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — The foreign ministers of member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have expressed concern over the escalation of tension on the Korean Peninsula.

This follows North Korea’s two nuclear tests in 2016 and subsequent ballistic missile launches.

“ASEAN strongly urges the [North Korea] to comply fully with its obligations arising from all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions and international laws in the interest of maintaining international peace and security,” the ASEAN foreign ministers said in a statement released Friday.

The foreign ministers also called on North Korea and other concerned parties to exercise self-restraint and to refrain from actions that will further escalate tension on the Korean Peninsula.

The ministers noted that the instability on the Korean Peninsula impacts the region and beyond.

“ASEAN supports the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and in this regard, calls for the resumption of dialogue on the Korean Peninsula to defuse tensions and create conditions conducive to peace and stability,” the statement read.

North Korea has sought support from ASEAN countries in its row with the US to prevent a “nuclear holocaust.”

In a letter addressed to the ASEAN secretary general, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho warned that the situation in the region was at the brink of war.

“I express my expectations that ASEAN which attaches great importance to the regional peace and stability will make an issue of the US-South Korean joint military exercises at ASEAN conferences from the fair position and play an active role in safeguarding the peace and safety of Korean Peninsula,” the letter read. — Patricia Lourdes Viray with a report from Agence France Presse

North Korea: U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson To Brief at U.N. Friday as Trump Warns of ‘Major, Major Conflict’

April 28, 2017

US president says he wants to seek a diplomatic solution to crisis in Korea and reveals China is helping to pressure Kim Jong-un

 .US President Trump speaks during an interview in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington.
US President Trump speaks during an interview in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Donald Trump has said that a “major conflict” was possible with North Korea though he would prefer to solve the standoff over the country’s nuclear and missile programme through diplomacy.

Trump’s warning on Thursday came towards the end of a week where the administration has made a concerted effort to restrain Pyongyang from carrying out major new weapons tests.

At the same time, US officials sought to clarify US policy after a variety of mixed signals in the administration’s first 100 days.

Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, said that the US would be prepared to enter into direct talks with the regime of Kim Jong-un, but that it would have to prepare to negotiate getting rid of all its nuclear weapons.

The opening to diplomacy came as the head of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris told the Senate that the standoff with North Korea was the worst he had seen. It was an assessment echoed by the president.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters.

“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” the president added.

Trump suggested there had been a breakthrough in Chinese readiness to help apply pressure on Kim since Xi Jinping visited the US president in Florida earlier this month.

“I believe he [the Chinese president] is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well,” Trump said.

“With that being said, he loves China and he loves the people of China. I know he would like to be able to do something, perhaps it’s possible that he can’t.”

Tillerson had earlier said the Chinese had warned Pyongyang, an increasingly unruly client in recent years, that it would impose punitive measures if North Korea carried out provocative tests.

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

According to Tillerson, the Chinese told the regime “that if they did conduct further nuclear tests, China would be taking sanctions actions on their own”.

The secretary of state said that the North Korean regime viewed its nuclear weapons and missile programmes as a guarantee of survival, and that the Trump administration sought to change that mindset.

“We want to change that calculus of theirs and we have said to them: your pathway to survival and security is to eliminate your nuclear weapons and we and other countries will help you on the way to economic development,” Tillerson said. He assured Pyongyang that the US objective was ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons, not toppling Kim Jong-un.

“We do not seek a regime change in North Korea. We are not seeking the collapse of the regime.”

Tillerson said that the US administration would “wait as long as it takes” for talks to start providing North Korea conducted no new nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile tests.

The secretary of state did not directly reply to a question on whether this policy was very similar to the “strategic patience” pursued by the Obama administration, which Tillerson had earlier said had come to an end.

In his Oval Office interview with Reuters, Trump offered an assessment of Kim.

Asked if he considered the North Korean leader to be rational he noted that Kim had taken over his country at an early age.

“He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age,” he said.

“I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a sign that North Korea’s regional neighbours are taking the threat of a conflict seriously, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull warned that Pyongyang could launch a nuclear attack on nations and claimed China has not applied enough pressure on the regime.

“There is the possibility and the risk that North Korea could launch an attack on its neighbours,” Turnbull said on 3AW radio.

“That is the reason why there is so much effort being put into seeking to stop this reckless and dangerous conduct by the North Korean regime. They are a real threat to the peace and stability in the region and to the whole world.”

Turnbull said while North Korea was often a subject of satire, the country had nuclear weapons and regularly threatened to use them.

“Their threats can appear sometimes to be theatrical and over the top and they have been the subject of satire but I can assure you that my government takes … the threat of North Korea very seriously,” he said.

On Friday morning Tillerson will chair a special ministerial session of the UN security council on North Korea, aimed at convincing other members to impose existing sanctions on Pyongyang more rigorously.



Trump Warns That ‘Major, Major Conflict’ With North Korea Is Possible

HONG KONG — President Trump warned Thursday of the possibility of a “major, major conflict” with North Korea, in an interview in which he said he was seeking a diplomatic solution to concerns that Pyongyang was preparing to conduct another nuclear test.

In the interview with Reuters, Mr. Trump praised President Xi Jinping of China for his efforts to resolve the dispute over North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs, but he cautioned that diplomatic efforts might fail.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” he said. “Absolutely.”

Mr. Trump’s remarks came amid signs that North Korea might soon conduct another underground detonation at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site despite Mr. Trump’s warning not to do so. China has played a mediating role in the crisis, as Mr. Trump has urged Mr. Xi to use Beijing’s leverage with North Korea, a longtime ally, to persuade it not to conduct a test.

“I believe he is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Xi. “He is a good man. He is a very good man, and I got to know him very well.”

In the interview, Mr. Trump actually offered some grudging praise for North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

“He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime,” he said. “So say what you want, but that is not easy, especially at that age.”

“I hope he’s rational,” Mr. Trump added of Mr. Kim.

The United States has been pressing the United Nations to impose more sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs. The diplomatic efforts have coincided with military maneuvers by the United States and South Korea in Pocheon, northeast of Seoul, South Korea, where the allies have demonstrated some of their latest weapons. In addition, the Michigan, a submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, has arrived in the South Korean port city of Busan. And a Navy strike group led by the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson has been sent to the Sea of Japan, which borders the Korean Peninsula.


Read the rest:

Trump says ‘major, major’ conflict with North Korea possible, but seeks diplomacy

April 28, 2017


By Stephen J. Adler, Steve Holland and Jeff Mason | WASHINGTON

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday a major conflict with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview ahead of his 100th day in office on Saturday.

Nonetheless, Trump said he wanted to peacefully resolve a crisis that has bedeviled multiple U.S. presidents, a path that he and his administration are emphasizing by preparing a variety of new economic sanctions while not taking the military option off the table.

“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said.

In other highlights of the 42-minute interview, Trump was cool to speaking again with Taiwan’s president after an earlier telephone call with her angered China.

He also said he wants South Korea to pay the cost of the U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense system, which he estimated at $1 billion, and intends to renegotiate or terminate a U.S. free trade pact with South Korea because of a deep trade deficit with Seoul.

Asked when he would announce his intention to renegotiate the pact, Trump said: “Very soon. I’m announcing it now.”

Trump also said he was considering adding stops to Israel and Saudi Arabia to a Europe trip next month, emphasizing that he wanted to see an Israeli-Palestinian peace. He complained that Saudi Arabia was not paying its fair share for U.S. defense.

Asked about the fight against Islamic State, Trump said the militant group had to be defeated.

“I have to say, there is an end. And it has to be humiliation,” he said, when asked about what the endgame was for defeating Islamist violent extremism.

U.S. President Donald Trump looks out a window of the Oval Office following an interview with Reuters at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria


Trump said North Korea was his biggest global challenge. He lavished praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping for Chinese assistance in trying to rein in Pyongyang. The two leaders met in Florida earlier this month.

“I believe he is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well.

“With that being said, he loves China and he loves the people of China. I know he would like to be able to do something, perhaps it’s possible that he can’t,” Trump said.

Trump spoke just a day after he and his top national security advisers briefed U.S. lawmakers on the North Korean threat and one day before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will press the United Nations Security Council on sanctions to further isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.

The Trump administration on Wednesday declared North Korea “an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority.” It said it was focusing on economic and diplomatic pressure, including Chinese cooperation in containing its defiant neighbor and ally, and remained open to negotiations.

U.S. officials said military strikes remained an option but played down the prospect, though the administration has sent an aircraft carrier and a nuclear-powered submarine to the region in a show of force.

Any direct U.S. military action would run the risk of massive North Korean retaliation and huge casualties in Japan and South Korea and among U.S. forces in both countries.


Trump, asked if he considered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to be rational, said he was operating from the assumption that he is rational. He noted that Kim had taken over his country at an early age.

“He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age.

“I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational,” he said.

Trump, sipping a Coke delivered by an aide after the president ordered it by pressing a button on his desk, rebuffed an overture from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who told Reuters a direct phone call with Trump could take place again after their first conversation in early December angered Beijing.

China considers neighboring Taiwan to be a renegade province.

“My problem is that I have established a very good personal relationship with President Xi,” said Trump. “I really feel that he is doing everything in his power to help us with a big situation. So I wouldn’t want to be causing difficulty right now for him.

“So I would certainly want to speak to him first.”

Trump also said he hoped to avoid a potential government shutdown amid a dispute between congressional Republicans and Democrats over a spending deal with a Saturday deadline looming.

But he said if a shutdown takes place, it will be the Democrats’ fault for trying to add money to the legislation to “bail out Puerto Rico” and other items.

He also defended the one-page tax plan he unveiled on Wednesday from criticism that it would increase the U.S. deficit, saying better trade deals and economic growth would offset the costs.

“We will do trade deals that are going to make up for a tremendous amount of the deficit. We are going to be doing trade deals that are going to be much better trade deals,” Trump said.

(Editing by Ross Colvin)

What Trump’s Early Days Tell Us About His Path Forward

April 27, 2017

President’s grades mean less than what he learns about how best to operate

President Donald Trump, shown in February.

President Donald Trump, shown in February. PHOTO: EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Updated April 27, 2017 11:55 a.m. ET

As the Trump presidency’s 100-day mark arrives, here’s a little secret: That opening stretch often is a rocky one for new presidents.

Bill Clinton suffered through a botched economic-stimulus package, a controversy over gays in the military and a White House travel-office scandal. George H.W. Bush made what turned out to be a disastrous pick for defense secretary.

If you reach back further, John Kennedy made a historic blunder by approving the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, a failure that continued to haunt him.

President Donald Trump’s journey through 100 days has been notably messy, of course. His most important legislative effort, on health care, collapsed at the hands of members of his own party, while a travel ban on select Muslim-majority countries stalled in the courts. His national-security adviser was fired in a controversy over contacts with Russian officials. He leveled an unsubstantiated accusation that his predecessor tapped his phones. He set a record for early job disapproval.

Yet he has been more effective on other fronts. With less notice, he has begun a broad rollback of regulations, in part through use of a long-dormant law that allows elimination of past regulatory directives, to the cheers of the business community. His team got a respected Supreme Court nominee through the Senate. Ditching campaign-season impulses, he launched a strike at Syria over its use of chemical weapons, and built what seems to be a solid relationship with China’s president.

So the debate is on over what Mr. Trump has and hasn’t done at the much-hyped 100-day milestone. But history suggests that the precise balance sheet at 100 days means less than what has been learned about how a new president operates—and what kinds of adjustments he makes based on those opening lessons.

Ronald Reagan used his opening 100 days to build an effective legislative coalition of fellow Republicans and conservative Democrats. That coalition implemented his broad agenda in his first year—and then was useful the following year when he needed to roll back some of his signature tax cuts to shrink the deficit. He also began learning that allowing multiple, competing power centers inside his White House wouldn’t work.

Mr. Kennedy learned not to put unquestioned trust in military leaders and to put stock in his own instincts. That proved useful in guiding him through the Cuban missile crisis that came later.

Mr. Clinton learned he needed to impose more order on his personal and political world. He did, and ended up overseeing a prospering economy and largely successful presidency—although that lack of personal discipline returned to haunt him in the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Those early lessons are the ones that proved prescient in the past. So the important question at this point may be less what did or didn’t happen in Mr. Trump’s first 100 days, but what we know about the new presidency—and what lessons the president might walk away with himself.

We know that Mr. Trump is a restless activist who doesn’t abide by the rules, for better and for worse. His presidency will never be quiet. The risk for him now is that the volume and looseness of his running commentary will undermine his ability to communicative effectively, at home and abroad, when it’s urgent to do so.

Yet we also know he can curb his impulses, if he really wants to. He has gone stretches without indulging in his Twitter addiction. He can lean toward more of a conventional style when he wants to. He bashes the press yet also is open to it in a way few of his predecessors were.

Perhaps more important, he has allowed a cadre of more conventional advisers—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, economic adviser Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin —to accumulate increasing influence. Whether that continues is a key indicator for the next 100 days.

Perhaps most important, Mr. Trump is hitting the 100-day mark without a clear governing coalition. Republicans’ control of the White House and both houses of Congress created an expectation that getting things done might be easy, but the early failure on the Obamacare repeal showed that he can’t count on support from his party’s most conservative wing.

At the same time, he hasn’t managed to win meaningful Democratic support, outside of cheers for the Syria strike. The polarizing effect of his opening days has made that task tougher; Democratic National Chairman Tom Perez, in his own 100-days message, called on Democrats “to keep resisting for the next hundred, and the hundred after that, and on until Donald Trump is out of office for good.”

The foremost presidential challenge​ for the next hundred days and beyond is to get Washington beyond the dangers of paralyzing polarization.​

Write to Gerald F. Seib at

Corrections & Amplifications
Gary Cohn is a White House economic adviser. An earlier version of this article incorrectly gave his last name as Cohen. (April 27, 2017)