EghtesadOnline: President Donald Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has gotten away with provocations and threats for too long and suggested he’s ready to hit the reclusive regime with U.S. military might to put an end to it.
Trump capped a week of escalating rhetoric with yet another warning Friday that if Kim makes any “overt threat” or strike at a U.S. territory or ally “he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.”
According to Bloomberg, Trump refused to say whether he has ordered a change in military readiness. He signaled that the U.S. was pursuing diplomacy, saying he would speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday night about the situation on the Korean Peninsula. His aggressive rhetoric may prod China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, to more firmly rein in Kim.
So far, the most significant measures levied against Kim have been United Nations economic sanctions. Trump said that the U.S. was considering further economic penalties against Pyongyang that would be “as strong as they get,” though he offered no specifics. China has the most economic leverage over the Kim regime.
“Hopefully it will all work out. Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump,” he told reporters in Bedminster, New Jersey. “We will see what happens. We think that lots of good things could happen, and we could also have a bad solution.”
The U.S. hasn’t taken any public steps to prepare for hostilities such as evacuating Americans from Seoul, which is within range of North Korean artillery, or moving ships, aircraft or troops into position for an imminent response. But the military has plenty of assets in the region to mount a strike, a point Trump emphasized earlier in the day.
‘Locked and Loaded’
“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” Trump tweeted on Friday. In a subsequent retweet, Trump highlighted the presence of U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers stationed on the Pacific island of Guam, which have flown joint missions with Japanese and South Korean fighter jets in recent days.
According to the U.S. Navy, the USS Ronald Reagan and its carrier strike group returned to its home port in Yokosuka, Japan, on Aug. 9. The USS Carl Vinson, another carrier that was in the region, is conducting training off the coast of California.
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency accused Trump earlier of “driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war.”
Trump has been increasing pressure on North Korea as the isolated regime in Pyongyang has continued to develop and refine its nuclear bomb and missile technology to pose a risk to the U.S. The president has vowed to unleash “fire and fury” on Kim’s regime, which has threatened to fire missiles toward Guam, a U.S. territory about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers) southeast of Pyongyang that is home to a strategic air and naval base.
A White House national security official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said the Pentagon has contingency plans for any crisis that are updated constantly to provide the president with options and that there was nothing new about the U.S. readiness stance.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday he’s ready to present Trump with military options “if they be needed,” but the U.S. is “gaining diplomatic results and I want to stay right there, right now.”
After a week of tumult, financial markets began to stabilize on Friday. The S&P 500 Index rebounded from its steepest drop since May, and the CBOE Volatility Index dropped 3.3 percent, after Thursday’s 44 percent spike.
Terence Roehrig, a national security affairs professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, said Trump’s posture suggested he was trying to dissuade Kim from further provocations rather than setting the stage for a U.S. military strike.
“The president’s rhetoric could be aimed at China, but largely it is aimed at North Korea, trying to deter,” Roehrig said. “North Koreans are not suicidal. They may continue launching missile tests but they don’t want a war, and the U.S. doesn’t want military action either. ”
The crisis has gripped much of the region. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Friday his government would back the U.S. if North Korea attacked. Japan moved missile interceptors into position after the Guam threat, the Nikkei newspaper reported. China, North Korea’s only major ally, called on both countries to avoid the “old road” of escalating hostilities.
“China hopes that related parties will speak and act with caution, doing more to alleviate the tense situation and enhance mutual trust,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement on Friday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday “the risks are very high” of war between the U.S. and North Korea. Russia and China have presented “proposals that seek to prevent the most serious conflict with a huge number of victims,” Lavrov said. “Unfortunately, the rhetoric in Washington and Pyongyang is starting to go too far.”
In the U.S., support for Trump’s tough talk on North Korea broke down along party lines.
Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL who is now the Republican governor of Missouri, said Friday on Fox News, “I’m very, very glad to see the president and Secretary Mattis standing up strongly to these threats.”
On Thursday, 64 congressional Democrats sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying that Trump’s statements on North Korea were “irresponsible and dangerous” and calling upon the administration to “publicly declare its agreement with the constitutional requirement that any preemptive attack on North Korea must be debated and authorized by Congress.”
Some analysts expect the tensions to escalate in the coming days as both North and South Korea celebrate the Aug. 15 anniversary of the end of Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula.
The U.S. and South Korea are due to start joint military exercises on Aug. 21, while Japanese and U.S. military personnel have begun drills on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido that run through Aug. 28.
This most recent crisis was sparked, in part, by the Aug. 5 unanimous vote in the UN Security Council to impose new sanctions on the Kim regime in response to its nuclear and missile tests.