Posts Tagged ‘U. S.’

Trump has given Xi Jinping a pass on the South China Sea

November 10, 2017

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(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

By Steve Mollman

The South China Sea is, for many, a worrying geopolitical flashpoint. But for Xi Jinping, it’s a source of pride.

When Xi recently addressed the Communist Party congress, he boasted that “construction on islands and reefs in the South China Sea has seen steady progress.” In recent years, China has built military facilities on reefs and islands to bolster its claim to nearly the entire sea. An international tribunal invalidated that claim last year, but Beijing dismissed the ruling.

During US president Donald Trump’s time in office, China’s expansion activities in the waterway have continued, and there’s every indication it plans to further entrench itself in what analysts fear will become a “Chinese lake.” Trump didn’t publicly challenge his hosts about the South China Sea while in Beijing this week, and in a display of camaraderie said he felt a “great chemistry” with Xi. But he will have a chance to address the issue in the days ahead at regional summits in Vietnam and the Philippines as part of his lengthy Asia trip.

Those countries, along with Malaysia and Brunei, have their own claims in the sea that conflict with China’s. In many cases China’s sweeping claim—demarcated by its nine-dash line—intersects with other nations’ exclusive economic zones. The zone gives those nations sole rights to the natural resources in and below the water, as per the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Despite this, China, in the waters it also claims, expects joint development of the resources, which include oil and natural gas.

Map of China's nine-dash line showing the Spratly and Paracel islands and Scarborough Shoal
A contested sea.

Trump offered tough talk on China’s island-building while he was running for president last year, but since assuming office he’s made it less of a priority than his campaign rhetoric suggested. North Korea is a big reason why. Trump believes China, as North Korea’s largest trading partner, could apply enough economic pressure to force Pyongyang to change its ways, so he’s essentially been wooing Xi. With North Korea and US-China trade his main concerns, the South China Sea has fallen by the wayside.

But not for Beijing. As recent developments suggest, it’s going full steam ahead in bolstering its position in the waterway.

For example, China has built a new drone to deliver supplies to islands lacking a proper runway. It also plans to use floating nuclear reactors to power its islands, with the first undergoing final tests now—up to 20 could eventually provide electricity to China’s outposts in the sea. And this month, China unveiled a large dredging ship dubbed the “magical island-maker” by its creators and capable of suctioning up mud, sand, and coral, and depositing the debris as new land more efficiently than its predecessors. The vessel can dig 6,000 cubic meters (21,189 cubic feet) an hour, the equivalent of three standard swimming pools, from 35 meters (115 feet) below the water’s surface. South China Sea watchers quickly saw its potential to create more islands.

Trump will get another chance to challenge China’s maritime moves when he attends an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Vietnam on Nov. 10-11. More opportunities will come in the Philippines when he attends events tied to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Nov. 12-13, and then at the East Asia Summit before he returns to the US.

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said this week that at the APEC meeting he’ll seek clarification from Xi, who will also be present, on Beijing’s intentions in the sea. “You want to control the passage, or do we have free passage?” he said at a news briefing before leaving for Vietnam. But Duterte has hardly been a great challenger of China’s claims—he recently halted construction of bamboo huts on a sandbar after Beijing complained.

Trump can afford to be more assertive—whatever his chemistry with Xi.

Trump has given Xi Jinping a pass on the South China Sea

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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U.S. Keeps Up Diplomatic Efforts to Deal With North Korea Crisis

September 26, 2017

NEW DELHI — Diplomatic efforts to tackle the crisis caused by North Korea’s nuclear and missile buildup are continuing, U. S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday.

Mattis, who is on a two-day official visit to the Indian capital to strengthen military ties said pressure on North Korea had increased following a United Nations resolution.

“We continue to maintain the diplomatically led efforts in the United Nations,” he told reporters.

“You have seen unanimous U.N. security council resolutions passed that have increased the pressure…on the North and at the same time we maintain the capability to deter North Korea’s most dangerous threats,” he added.

(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani and Aditya Kalra; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Deterrence May Be The Answer to the North Korea Dilemma

September 6, 2017
 September 6 at 3:24 AM
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TOKYO — If the U.S. attacks North Korea, the world could see another nuclear war. Yet negotiations won’t work — leader Kim Jong Un won’t live up to his promises even if he were to make any. And China — if only it would help more!Those are the sentiments that have produced a collective shrug from many as they watch the North make rapid strides toward developing nuclear missiles capable of striking anywhere in the United States.

But Washington hasn’t tried everything yet.

Below, three experts offer ideas on how the U.S. might get out of its policy box on North Korea.

And none of them require firing a shot.

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DETERRENCE: A FAMILIAR GAME FOR U.S.

Deterrence is about making sure your opponent has no good military moves. Kim Jong Un has proven to be pretty good at it.

Vipin Narang, a nuclear strategy and nonproliferation expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes U.S. policymakers need to let that sink in.

“Saying that this nuclear program has not augmented or improved North Korea’s ability to deter particular actions, especially regime change or invasion or disarmament, is simply denying reality and putting our head in the sand,” he said.

The good news is deterrence is a game the United States has played before.

“We know how to do this,” he said. “We did it with China and the Soviet Union and managed to reassure West Germany and Europe during the Cold War. There is no logical reason we cannot do it with North Korea. Kim is not crazy or irrational and responds to strategic and domestic incentives.”

Upping the game will require two things Narang believes are now lacking: a coherent and unified message to Pyongyang from President Donald Trump’s administration, and strong, believable reassurances to America’s regional allies.

Along with preventing a U.S. attack, North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile tests are intended to create discord among the U.S., Japan and South Korea — and, though it’s not an American ally — China. If America’s ability to handle North Korea is in doubt, there is more pressure for South Korea and Japan to pursue independent strategies and even consider developing nuclear weapons of their own.

Moreover, the different messages coming from the White House, State Department and Department of Defense — ranging from Trump threatening “fire and fury” to the more conciliatory tone of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — Pyongyang has more incentive to push ahead quickly to either take advantage of what it sees as weakness or bolster its capabilities ahead of what it fears to be a looming invasion.

“So long as this incoherence persists, it becomes very difficult to craft deterrent positions clearly and effectively,” Narang said. “At this point, the way forward it seems to me is to always keep the channel for negotiations open while simultaneously practicing deterrence and reassurance to our allies.”

And maybe one more thing. Tone down the tweets.

“When President Trump tweets the day after the alleged H-bomb test that South Korea should stop ‘appeasement’ of North Korea, Pyongyang can be nothing short of delighted at its strategy working,” Narang said.

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NOT CHINA’S JOB

Previous efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons have leaned heavily on Beijing, and to a lesser extent Moscow, to enforce sanctions and apply political pressure. It’s an approach Trump seems to support wholeheartedly. Right after the North’s nuclear test Sunday, he tweeted that Pyongyang has become “a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”

But China’s and Russia’s national interests aren’t the same as Washington’s. Shifting the onus to them for a solution diminishes U.S. leadership and control, said Joel Wit, a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies and a former State Department official who developed strategies to deal with the crisis over North Korea’s weapons program in the 1990s.

“Under the best of circumstances, China can play a supporting role, both in supporting limited pressure on the North and in supporting diplomatic outreach to Pyongyang,” he said. “But it has not and will not do what Washington wants — solve this problem for the United States by creating overwhelming pressure.”

Even if Beijing went along, Wit said it still wouldn’t work: “The North Koreans are not going to roll over and play dead when faced with an existential threat to their regime. They will lash out.”

Wit also said the Trump administration will have “virtually no prospect of securing Chinese cooperation” if it insists that reining in North Korea is mainly a Chinese problem. He believes North Korea is already taking advantage of the growing split between Washington and Beijing to “sprint to the WMD (weapons of mass destruction) finish line.”

He said that instead of pointing fingers, Washington needs to accept that the core problem is between the U.S. and North Korea and firmly take the wheel.

“The idea that this is the land of no good options leads everyone to move on,” he said. “Almost every foreign policy challenge facing the U.S. could be called the same thing. But this fatalistic attitude has permeated U.S. policy for over a decade and has led us to where we are today.”

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THE ART OF THE DEAL

If the U.S. is going to get what it wants, it has to know what it wants. And it will probably need to give up something to get it.

John Delury, an associate professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, believes the most realistic path forward involves three steps: “dialogue, negotiation, settlement.”

“Without talking to Kim Jong Un or his senior advisers, we just don’t know who we are dealing with, what their positions are, what we can give them that they really want, and what we can get in return. That moves us into the negotiation, for short-term steps that reduce risks, decrease hostility, even build a little confidence.”

Washington’s focus should be clear and specific. Negotiators should push for a missile and nuclear test moratorium, a freeze on the production of nuclear weapons, the return of nuclear inspectors and increased transparency. There must also be nonproliferation commitments.

Delury stresses there must also be some give and take.

“For these things, things that are in U.S. interests, the Trump administration, in close consultation with Seoul and Tokyo, will have to consider what it is willing to do, or forego,” he said.

Pyongyang says it wants some sort of security guarantee and the removal of the U.S. nuclear threat from the Korean Peninsula. Neither would seem to be a good starter topic, but another item on Pyongyang’s list — scaling back or canceling the U.S. military’s annual wargames with the South — might be an area the two could at least talk about.

In the longer term, Delury says, the U.S. must directly address “the true heart of the matter, which is working on a political settlement” that fundamentally transforms the U.S.-North Korea relationship.

“Let’s call those ‘peace talks,’ for lack of a better phrase,” he said.

Technically, the countries have remained at war since 1953, when an armistice rather than a peace treaty ended fighting in the Korean War.

Delury said negotiations “should also involve a heavy dose of economic cooperation, since the only alternative to the status quo that might appeal to Kim Jong Un is a North Korea that is not only secure, but also prosperous.”

The hope is that more political and economic engagement would over time prompt the North to ease its authoritarian controls. But the negotiation process would undoubtedly be fraught with ambivalence and resistance on both sides.

“It’s true there are no easy answers, no quick fixes, no silver bullets,” he said. “Even if we made a determined effort to improve the relationship, it would be hard and slow going.

“So being realistic about dealing with North Korea is prudent. But the current level of fatalism is counterproductive to coming up with a better approach.”

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Talmadge has been the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief since 2013. Follow him on Twitter at EricTalmadge and on Instagram @erictalmadge.

Turkey’s Erdogan Says U.S. Indictment of Guards From Washington Brawl a ‘Scandal’ — Washington police say, “Leaving the diplomatic area to beat, kick and bloody peaceful protesters left us no choice. It was a horrifying display of lawlessness.”

September 1, 2017

ANKARA — A U.S. decision to arrest Turkish security guards involved in a brawl in Washington in May is a scandal, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

“This is a complete scandal. It is a scandalous sign of how justice works in the United States,” Erdogan told reporters after prayers for the Muslim Eid al-Adha celebration.

Eleven people were hurt in the brawl during Erdogan’s visit to Washington, which the city’s police chief described as a brutal attack on peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Members of Erdogan’s security detail violently reacting to peaceful protesters during Erdogan's trip last month to Washington.

The charges stem from the brawl during Erdogan’s trip to Washington in May.

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September 1, 2017

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday criticised the indictment in Washington of members of his security detail who were charged with assaulting protesters during an official White House visit in May.

A total of 19 people including Turkish security officials have been identified from video footage of the May 16 clashes with Kurdish protesters following a meeting between Erdogan and President Donald Trump.

Erdogan said in a televised address that the case was a “scandalous demonstration of how American justice works.”

More names were added to the case this week after US officials said videos showed Turkish security agents beating and kicking protestors on the ground in the “Embassy Row” section of downtown Washington DC.

Ankara’s foreign minister reacted angrily, protesting “in the strongest terms that such an unjust and biased indictment, with names of people that have never been to the US, has been accepted.”

It said it had conveyed its reaction to the US ambassador to Ankara.

A total of 21 counts of assault and hate crimes based on the victims’ ethnicity were levelled against the group by Washington DC district attorney Channing Phillips.

All but two of the 19 “security personnel and supporters of Erdogan” remain at large. Two Turkish-American businessmen were arrested in June for their roles in the clash with protesters.

Of the 17 others, two are Canadians, and the remaining are Turkish citizens.

Relations between Ankara and Washington have been strained over the US arming Syrian Kurdish militia fighting against the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

The clashes during Erdogan’s visit exacerbated tensions between the NATO allies, with the Turkish leader accusing US police of having allowed “terrorists” to protest “50 metres from me”.

The Turkish foreign ministry repeated Ankara’s criticisms of “serious negligence” by US security authorities who did not “secure our delegation’s safety”.

North Korea Fires Missile Over Japan, Renewing Tensions in Asia — “North Korea is acting as if it’s a nuclear weapons state.” — “This is between Washington and Pyongyang now.”

August 29, 2017

Bloomberg News

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By Andy Sharp and David Tweed

August 28, 2017, 5:48 PM EDT August 29, 2017, 4:17 AM EDT

North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday, rattling Asian markets as the U.S. and its allies weighed a response to Kim Jong Un’s latest provocation.

The missile landed in the Pacific Ocean about 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) east of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered a show of force in response, with four F-15K jet fighters conducting bomb-dropping drills.

“A missile passing over Japan is an unprecedented, grave and serious threat,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters in Tokyo. Abe said he spoke with President Donald Trump for 40 minutes, and they agreed to increase pressure on North Korea. He also called for China and Russia to take action. There was no statement from the White House or Trump tweet in the hours after the launch.

It was the first North Korean projectile to fly over Japanese airspace since the regime launched a rocket over Okinawa in 2016, and undermines nascent hopes for dialogue with North Korea. That’s after tensions had appeared to cool following a war of words between Trump and Kim earlier this month.

With sanctions having little impact and any war likely to be catastrophic, the U.S. and its allies have few good options to stop Kim from obtaining the capability to hit North America with a nuclear weapon.

“North Korea is acting as if it’s a nuclear weapons state,” John Park, director of the Korea Working Group at Harvard Kennedy School, told Bloomberg Television. “You can draw any number of red lines; in North Korea’s mind they’re on the cusp of getting itself the capabilities that are in the realm of the great powers.”

China urged countries involved to refrain from provoking each other, Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Tuesday at a regular briefing in Beijing. “The facts have proven that pressure and sanctions cannot fundamentally solve the issue,” she said. “The only way out is through dialogue and consultation.”

South Korean stocks led regional losses, with the Kospi index sliding as much as 1.6 percent before closing 0.2 percent lower. Safe haven assets from gold to Treasuries and the yen advanced.

Oliver Matthew, an analyst at CLSA in Tokyo, said he didn’t expect major long-term effects on business from the saber-rattling. “Over the longer term still the big picture is people want to travel, they want to go to new places, they want to go shopping, they want to buy stuff — that doesn’t change,” he said.

Read more: North Korea defies the world with nuclear ambitions

While Trump spoke with Abe, there was no official statement so far from the White House. Last week Trump said Kim was “starting to respect us,” a shift in tone after he vowed earlier in the month that threats from North Korea would be met with “fire and fury.” He has previously said military force is an option to prevent Kim from gaining a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Korea has said it won’t place its nuclear program on the negotiating table unless the U.S. drops its “hostile” policies. It has strongly protested annual military exercises now underway between the U.S. and South Korea, saying they are aimed at regime change and could spark an accidental war.

After North Korea fired three short-range missiles on Saturday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson continued to push for dialogue with North Korea. South Korea also urged talks.

Following the launch on Tuesday, Japan asked the United Nations Security Council to hold an emergency meeting and said now wasn’t the time for dialogue.

“This will make it more difficult for the U.S. to get Japanese support for diplomacy, unfortunately, at exactly the time when the situation is heating up,” said David Wright, a co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He called the launch a “big deal,” saying North Korea previously tested missiles at a high trajectory to avoid flying over Japan.

Read more: How annual drills are an obstacle to talks with North Korea

The missile was launched from near Pyongyang, traveled 2,700 kilometers in an easterly direction and reached an altitude of 550 kilometers, South Korea’s military said.

It was likely an intermediate-range ballistic missile, according to Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera. Japan didn’t shoot it down after an assessment that it wasn’t aimed at its territory.

Pyongyang had threatened earlier this month to fire a missile over Japan toward the U.S. territory of Guam, which prompted threats of retaliation from American military officials.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters that the launch of a missile to the east, rather than south towards Guam, showed Pyongyang “flinched” in the face of U.S. warnings.

North Korea has shown recent advancements in its technology by testing ICBMs at high altitudes, reflecting progress toward being able to reach the continental U.S. with a nuclear warhead. That has happened despite further international sanctions aimed at squeezing Kim’s economy.

Missile Defense

“They flew the missile over Japan because they felt the need to test a missile over a longer range,” said Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS in Honolulu. “By firing it into the North Pacific, it makes it harder to recover the pieces and warheads than if they flew it toward Guam.”

Japan and South Korea have both stepped up their efforts on missile defense. After the latest launch by North Korea, Seoul released footage of tests last week of its own ballistic missiles, according to Yonhap News. China has voiced opposition to its neighbors beefing up missile defenses, saying they could also be used to counter its own capabilities.

While China backed UN sanctions earlier this month that crimped a third of North Korea’s exports, it has resisted cutting off food and fuel supplies that are vital to the survival of Kim’s regime. China is wary of doing anything that would lead to North Korea’s collapse, a scenario that could potentially destabilize its economy and put U.S. troops directly on its border.

Trump may see more success at getting North Korea to halt testing by sending an envoy directly to Pyongyang, said John Delury, an associate professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul.

“The road to Pyongyang does not go via Beijing,” he said. “It goes straight from Washington to Pyongyang.”

— With assistance by Heejin Kim, Chelsea Mes, Divya Balji, Gearoid Reidy, Go Onomitsu, Shoko Oda, Kanga Kong, Colin Keatinge, Lily Nonomiya, Kevin Hamlin, and Jeff Sutherland

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-28/north-korea-missile-appears-to-have-flown-over-japan-abe-says?cmpid=socialflow-twitter-business&utm_content=business&utm_campaign=socialflow-organic&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

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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.

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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)

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

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.