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Trump issues stern warning to North Korea and its leader

By JAMES OLIPHANT
Reuters

August 10. 2017 9:00PM
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after a security briefing with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, left, and Vice President Mike Pence at Trump's golf estate in Bedminster, N.J., on Thursday. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President Donald Trump ratcheted up his rhetoric toward North Korea and its leader on Thursday, warning Pyongyang against attacking Guam or U.S. allies after it disclosed plans to fire missiles over Japan to land near the U.S. Pacific territory.

Trump took specific aim at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying, “He has disrespected our country greatly. He has said things that are horrific. And with me, he’s not getting away with it. He got away with it for a long time between him and his family. ... This is a whole new ball game.”

North Korea’s army will complete the plans in mid-August to fire four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land near Guam, when they will be ready for Kim’s order, state-run KCNA news agency said. The plans called for the missiles to land in the sea 18-25 miles from Guam.

“I read about, ’We’re in Guam by August 15th.’ Let’s see what he does with Guam. He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody’s seen before, what will happen in North Korea,” Trump, without offering specifics, told reporters in New Jersey.

“It’s not a dare. It’s a statement,” Trump said. “He’s not going to go around threatening Guam. And he’s not going to threaten the United States. And he’s not going to threaten Japan. And he’s not going to threaten South Korea.”

Tension in the region has risen since the reclusive communist country, which staged two nuclear bomb tests last year, launched two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July in defiance of world powers. Trump has said he will not allow Pyongyang to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States.

Far from toning down his words after saying on Tuesday that any threats by Pyongyang would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said those remarks may have not gone far enough. “Maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said.

Trump’s Tuesday comments had unnerved allies in the region and drew criticism from some politicians and foreign policy experts at home as needlessly pugnacious at a time when more measured language would be appropriate.

On Thursday in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is on a working vacation, Trump also declared the U.S. nuclear arsenal “in tip-top shape, and getting better, and getting stronger.”

Asked if he would consider a pre-emptive strike against North Korea to deny it the ability to launch a nuclear attack against the United States, Trump said, “We’ll see what happens.”

Trump during the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign complained that key Asian allies such as Japan and South Korea were not paying their fair share of their defense burden and even suggested they might need to develop their own nuclear weapons, a comment that ran counter to decades of U.S. anti-proliferation policy.

Since taking office, Trump has reaffirmed a commitment to defend those countries against any North Korean threat.

“If North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about attack of anybody that we love or we represent or our allies or us, they should be very, very nervous,” Trump added.

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

Trump also said that new sanctions on North Korea approved by the U.N. Security Council on Aug. 5 that could slash by a third the country’s $3 billion annual export revenue probably “will not be as effective as a lot of people think it can be, unfortunately.” Trump praised China and Russia for backing the sanctions, but pressed Beijing to do more.

“I think China can do a lot more, yes. ... And I think China will do a lot more,” Trump said.

Trump said the United States loses a lot of money on trade with China. “It’s not going to continue like that. But if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade,” Trump added.


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