Breaking News -- Far East
|North Korea warns of 'catastrophic consequences'
USS Carl Vinson strike group carries out exercises with South Korean navy as North's media warns 'stop running wild'.
South Korea and the United States wrapped up their annual large-scale military drills on Sunday but continued a separate joint naval exercise that has triggered the threat of nuclear war from North Korea.
The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula and began exercises with the South Korean navy late on Saturday. The South Korean navy declined to say when the exercises would be completed.
North Korea has threatened to sink the American armada.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running sky-high for weeks, with signs the North might be preparing a sixth nuclear weapon test - and with Washington refusing to rule out a military strike in response.
The massive Foal Eagle military exercises - which the defence ministry in Seoul said ended as scheduled on Sunday - involved about 20,000 South Korean and 10,000 US troops. Another annual joint manoeuvre known as Key Resolve ended last month.
Both play out scenarios for a conflict with North Korea, but Seoul and Washington insist they are purely defensive in nature. Pyongyang says the drills are provocative plans for an invasion or a "decapitation strike" against the North Korean leadership.
A North Korean state-run newspaper on Sunday warned of "catastrophic consequences", accusing the USS Carl Vinson strike force of rehearsing a "preemptive attack on the North" in a "special operation".
"This has pushed the tense situation on the Korean peninsula to an unpredictable dangerous phase," said the Minju Choson in a commentary.
"The enemies have to know that military threat and blackmail with the mobilization of nuclear carriers and nuclear submarines cannot work on the DPRK," it said, using the acronym for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"The US and the puppet group of traitors have to ponder over the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by their foolish military provocation - and stop running wild."
US President Donald Trump has warned of a possible "major conflict" after Pyongyang carried out a series of failed missile tests, including one on Saturday.
North Korean ballistic missile tests are banned by the United Nations because they are seen as part of Pyongyang's push for a nuclear-tipped weapon that can hit the US mainland.
Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will eventually develop better missiles, and "we can't allow it to happen".
In a taped interview broadcast Sunday on US network CBS, the president would not discuss the possibility of military action, saying: "It is a chess game. I just don't want people to know what my thinking is."
Trump will speak with the leaders of Singapore and Thailand on Sunday over the "potential for nuclear and massive destruction in Asia", because of the situation with North Korea, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said.
"There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what is happening in North Korea," he said.
The US and South Korea also started installing a missile defence system that is supposed to be partially operational within days.
The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, is controversial in South Korea. Residents in the village of Seongj, where the missile system is being deployed, scuffled with police on Sunday.
Trump raised eyebrows in South Korea last week when he said would make Seoul pay $1bn for the missile system. His national security adviser, HR McMaster, said on Sunday the matter is subject to negotiation.
Note: See interesting graphics and charts at the source.
Donald Trump: North Korea could still face military action as Japan moves warship to protect US
News Corp Australia Network
When asked at during a factory tour before his rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to mark his 100th day in office what his message on North Korea is, Trump told reporters: “You’ll soon find out, won’t you?”
Asked whether that meant military action, Trump said: “You’ll soon find out.”
His comments came as Japan dispatched its biggest warship since World War II to protect a US supply ship, as tensions mount in the region over North Korea.
The helicopter carrier Izumo will leave the mother port of Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, on Monday and join the US supply ship to escort it further into the western Pacific, the leading Asahi Shimbun daily and Jiji Press reported citing unnamed government sources.
It will be the first deployment -- outside of troop exercises --to protect the US fleet after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded the country’s military capabilities in 2015, though they remain restricted under Japan’s pacifist constitution.
The US supply ship is expected to support America’s naval fleet in the Pacific, possibly including the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, which remains on high alert over North Korea’s ballistic missile firings, the reports said.
Japanese naval officials declined to comment on the reports. Earlier this week, the US carrier had joint drills with Japan’s naval forces. The Carl Vinson arrived in the Sea of Japan and kicked off a joint drill with the South Korean navy on Saturday, hours after North Korea launched a ballistic missile in apparent defiance of the US.
North Korea’s state media has said the North’s military is capable of sinking the US aircraft carrier with a single strike.
The latest missile launch, which South Korea said was a failure, ratchets up tensions on the Korean peninsula, with Washington and Pyongyang locked in an ever-tighter spiral of threat, counter-threat and escalating military preparedness.
US President Donald Trump, who has warned of a “major conflict” with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s regime, said the latest test was a pointed snub to China -- the North’s main ally and economic lifeline.
“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” Trump tweeted
US WILL PAY FOR MISSILE SYSTEM
South Korea says Washington has reaffirmed it will shoulder the cost of deploying the THAAD anti-missile system, days after US President Donald Trump said Seoul should pay for the $US1billion ($A1.3 billion) system designed to defend against nuclear-armed North Korea.
In a telephone call on Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser, HR McMaster, reassured his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, that the US alliance with South Korea was its top priority in the Asia-Pacific region, the South’s presidential office said.
The conversation followed another North Korean missile test-launch on Saturday which Washington and Seoul said was unsuccessful, but which drew widespread international condemnation.
Trump, asked about his message to North Korea after the latest missile test, told reporters: “You’ll soon find out”, but did not elaborate on what the US response would be.
Trump’s comments in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that he wanted Seoul to pay for the THAAD deployment perplexed South Koreans and raised questions about his commitment to the two countries’ alliance.
South Korean officials responded that the cost was for Washington to bear, under the bilateral agreement.
“National Security Adviser HR McMaster explained that the recent statements by President Trump were made in a general context, in line with the US public expectations on defence cost burden-sharing with allies,” South Korea’s Blue House said in a statement, adding that McMaster requested the call. Major elements of the advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system were moved into the planned site in Seonjgu, in the south of the country, this week.
South Korea and the US say the sole purpose of THAAD is to guard against North Korean missiles. China says its powerful radar can penetrate its territory and undermine its security and spoke out against it again this week. The North has been conducting missile and nuclear weapons related activities at an unprecedented rate and is believed to have made progress in developing intermediate-range and submarine-launched missiles.
US JOINT DRILLS WITH S KOREA
THE US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson have kicked off a joint drill with the South Korean navy, officials said, as tensions rose over North Korea’s latest test-fire of a ballistic missile.
“Immediately after the aircraft carrier arrived in the Sea of Japan, South Korea and the US strike forces launched a drill from 9am GMT (7pm Saturday AEST) Saturday”, a defence ministry spokesman said.
The drill came hours after the North launched a ballistic missile in apparent defiance of a concerted US push for tougher international sanctions to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
The drill aimed to verify the allies’ capability to track and intercept enemy ballistic missiles, the spokesman said.
He declined to clarify how long the drill would last, but Yonhap news agency said it was expected to continue until sometime next week.
The drill will also include a live-fire exercise and anti-submarine manoeuvres, the spokesman added.
It would mark the USS Carl Vinson’s second operation in South Korean waters in less than two months amid heightened military tensions in Korea. In March, the aircraft carrier carried out annual joint drills.
Earlier this week, the US carrier had joint drills with Japan’s naval forces. North Korea’s state media has said the North’s military is capable of sinking the aircraft carrier with a single strike.
The latest missile launch, which South Korea said was a failure, came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the UN Security Council of “catastrophic consequences” if the international community — most notably China — failed to pressure the North into abandoning its weapons program.
Military options for dealing with the North were still “on the table”, Tillerson warned in his first address to the UN body.
The launch ratchets up tensions on the Korean peninsula, with Washington and Pyongyang locked in an ever-tighter spiral of threat, counter-threat and escalating military preparedness.
US President Donald Trump, who has warned of a “major conflict” with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s regime, said the latest test was a pointed snub to China — the North’s main ally and economic lifeline.
“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” Trump tweeted.
Trump confers with Asia allies on North Korean nuclear threat
Reuters via Japan Times
WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday stepped up outreach to allies in Asia to secure their cooperation to pressure North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.
Trump spoke to the prime ministers of Thailand and Singapore in separate phone calls about the North Korean threat and invited both of them to Washington, U.S. officials said.
“They discussed ways to maintain diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea,” one U.S. official said of the calls, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Trump’s calls to the two Asian leaders came two days after North Korea test-launched another missile that Washington and Seoul said was unsuccessful but which drew widespread international condemnation.
Trump talked on Saturday night with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who was also invited to the White House. Duterte has been criticized by human rights groups for an anti-drug campaign in which more than 8,000 people have died.
A week ago, Trump spoke with the leaders of China and Japan on the North Korea issue.
“We need cooperation at some level with as many partners in the area as we can get to make sure that we have our ducks in a row,” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told ABC’s “This Week” earlier Sunday.
“So if something does happen in North Korea, that we have everyone in line backing up a plan of action that may need to be put together with our partners in the area,” he said. “We have got to be on the same page.”
Priebus said the conversations were prompted by the “potential for nuclear and massive destruction in Asia” and eventually in the United States.
The U.S. president, who warned in an interview that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible, did not elaborate on any U.S. response to the test. “You’ll soon find out,” he said Saturday.
Trump has stressed he would not broadcast military options to preserve an element of surprise. His secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said Friday all options remained on the table.
Pyongyang’s missile test came as the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula, where it began exercises with the South Korean Navy on Saturday about 12 hours after the failed launch, a South Korean Navy official said.
Priebus said Trump was in regular contact with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and that the president had become “very close” to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Trump, for whom China was a virtual punching bag during the 2016 presidential campaign over trade, told CBS that any trade disputes with the Asian economic giant took a back seat to securing its cooperation on North Korea.
China, North Korea’s only major ally and its largest trading partner, has expressed increasing concern about Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. resolutions. But it has warned against escalation.
“Trade is very important. But massive warfare with millions, potentially millions of people being killed? That, as we would say, trumps trade,” Trump said in the “Face the Nation” interview.
Similarly, concerns over human rights in the Philippines, where critics cite extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s war on drugs, take a back seat to possible confrontation in Asia.
“There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what is happening in North Korea,” Priebus said in the ABC interview.
Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former general, heads a military-dominated government that took power in a 2014 coup. His government had strained relations with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, was asked if Washington must respond to the latest test, especially after Vice President Mike Pence told allies during a trip to Asia this month that the “era of strategic patience is over.”
“Well, yes, we do have to do something,” McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday.” He said that may mean ratcheting up U.N. sanctions and also being prepared for military operations.
It was unclear whether the consultations meant Washington was preparing imminent action against Pyongyang.
The United States may just be lining up the largest coalition possible in the region to present a united front against North Korea, said professor Jens David Ohlin, an international law expert at Cornell Law School.
“It’s the only option on the ground — to do this multilaterally rather than try to solve it on our own,” he said.
Adam M. Smith, a Treasury Department sanctions expert in the administration of former President Barack Obama, said the lesson from trying to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions was that the more multilateral the pressure, the more effective it was.
He said it was notable that Trump was talking to the money centers in Asia — Singapore and Japan — and reaching out to some countries in the region, including the Philippines, that have been unwilling to go beyond what was required by U.N. sanctions.
“It makes a lot of sense, I think, to try to expand the net, and not just rely on Beijing,” Smith said. “I think this is sort of a good start on multilateralization.”
Sen. John McCain, a leading Republican on foreign policy, said he did not believe Trump was considering a preemptive strike on North Korea. That would put U.S. ally South Korea in immediate danger, he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“But to say you absolutely rule out that option, of course, would be foolish. But it has to be the ultimate last option,” McCain said.
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