President Trump makes clear that tensions continue to mount with North Korea.
President Trump warned a “major, major conflict” with North Korea could result from the ongoing standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but he said he hoped diplomacy would prevail.
In an exclusive Oval Office interview with Reuters ahead of the 100-day benchmark in his administration, Trump candidly acknowledged that the international situation could go off the rails.
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump said.
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.”
– President Trump
“We’d love to solve things diplomatically, but it’s very difficult,” he added.
Trump also said South Korea should pay for the $1 billion U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile defense system in place to protect it from an attack from the north.
The wide-ranging interview also included Trump’s plan to defeat the Islamic State terror network.
“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.
But talk was dominated by the North Korea situation, which has vexed past presidents, but seems to have reached a fever pitch amid repeated threats and new tests of missiles by Kim Jong-un.
“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,” Trump 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.
Trump said Chinese President Xi Jinping is helping to mitigate the issue.
“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.”
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North Korea vs. the World: Tensions are Rising
“If the goal was to line up the dots and prepare for military combat involving North Korea, you could not do much more.”
There is no doubt serious tensions between the world and North Korea. In the midst of this, North Korea made the following statement, which adds to fears of a nuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula.
“We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis,” says Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-you. He says “all-out war” would result if the US took military action.
The Rodong Sinmun—the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party—did not mince its words.
“In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only US imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the US mainland and reduce them to ashes.”
North Korea is blatantly stating that they are not concerned with world opinion. North Korea is an antagonist rogue state and a scourge on the world.
The countries around North Korea are concerned about the flood of refugees in the event of full-scale war and the collapse of Kim’s regime. Video footage has emerged showing Chinese tanks rolling toward North Korea. Although China is trying to broker an agreement where North Korea backs away from the path of nuclear weapons, China is not so naive as to be caught unprepared should military action take place.
It has been reported that China has deployed a mass of troops to the North Korean border, additionally, the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has claimed 25,000 more troops are being sent to the border after all Chinese forces were placed on nationwide alert.
A statement from the Global Times, used by the Chinese military, warned of war with North Korea. The statement reads:
China has a bottom line it will protect at all costs—that is the security and stability of northeast China. If the bottom line is touched, China will employ all means available, including the military, to strike back. By the time the Chinese People’s Liberation Army launch attacks on DPRK nuclear facilities, China will have protected their own.
Just this week, Japan discussed the possibility of evacuating tens of thousands of Japanese citizens from South Korea. The Japanese government, although restricted constitutionally from taking aggressive military actions against another country (as stated in Article 9 of their constitution) is free to defend itself against attack.
Article 9 is a clause in the National Constitution of Japan outlawing war as a means to settle international disputes involving the state. The constitution came into effect on May 3, 1947, following World War II.
Should a military conflict take place, Japan will be one of several jumping-off points for US operations. Japan is also strengthing its missile defense, as it is in range of North Korean missiles and would be a likely target.
The USS Carl Vinson—along with two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, one Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, and as of yesterday, the USS Michigan, a nuclear powered guided missile submarine, was steaming toward the Korean Peninsula.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) will purportedly dispatch an unknown number of destroyers to the East China Sea to conduct joint naval drills with the USS Carl Vinson and its battlegroup. Reuters reports, citing two well-placed sources:
“The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) may conduct helicopter landings on each other’s ships, as well as communication drills, as the USS Carl Vinson and its escort ships pass through waters close to Japanese territory.”
One of the sources said, “Japan wants to dispatch several destroyers as the Carl Vinson enters the East China Sea.” Some JMSDF destroyers are equipped with the so-called Aegis Combat System Baseline 9, specifically designed for ballistic missile defense.
Russia is also in preparation for a possible military conflict involving North Korea by moving troops to its 11-mile shared border with the rogue state. Though the Kremlin stated this was a scheduled maneuver and not a direct response to North Korea’s actions, Anti-missile units, tanks, and troops are being repositioned in the region. Russia, as well as China, know full well that should military conflict break out, their borders will be inundated with fleeing North Korean refugees.
At the UN, Russia derailed a proposed UN Security Council statement that would have condemned North Korea’s latest missile launch test, using its veto to torpedo the motion. UN diplomats said the proposed statement of condemnation had consensus from the other 14 council members, including China, North Korea’s biggest ally and a council permanent member.
According to US Ambassador Nikki Haley it’s…
“up to North Korea to avoid further trouble. I think it’s important that North Korea knows we’re not trying to pick a fight, so don’t try and give us one. And it’s up to them to kind of see it. We’ve said it as clearly as we can possibly say it. You know, the ball is in their court. They shouldn’t try and play at this point.”
Vice President Pence is currently talking to leaders in the region about the situation during his ten-day visit to the area. The US and South Korea are conducting the largest military exercise to date, called Max Thunder, which positions massive military forces in the border areas of North and South Korea. Over 1,000 US aircraft and airmen are training and working with the South Korean Air Force in the Max Thunder exercise. This exercise is planned to last through April.
If the goal was to line up the dots and prepare for military combat involving North Korea, you could not do much more. The world is quickly arriving at a tipping point where Kim Jong-un and his bombastic and extremely dangerous regime will have to be dealt with one way or another. It looks like one of those options is being readied.
Kim Jong-un has very few choices as the tensions mount. He is pressured from all sides. Allies are abandoning him. Old friends are using their military to protect their borders from the eventual collapse of his regime. Like the animal backed into a corner, he is showing as much strength as possible. Will Kim Jong-un move to strike first? Will his regime be militarily decapitated? Will he just go on and ignore the gathering storm around him? On the other hand, will someone, even a lower echelon commander, make a mistake and set the conflict in motion? The possibilities are endless. The next test for the future of North Korea may very well be approaching.
What is the next test? Kim Jong-un could use it to make up for his most recent failed missile launch. There is growing speculation that the rogue nation will mark the occasion by launching another ballistic missile or testing a nuclear weapon.
Kim was embarrassed with his attempt to launch a missile that failed seconds after it was fired. The last launch was timed around the Day of the Sun, which was the 105th birthday of North Korea’s founding father, Kim Il-sung, the current leader’s late grandfather.
According to CNN’s Will Ripley:
“Kim Jong-un has made it clear that failures don’t deter him or his rocket scientists from trying to test more missiles. So it’s not a matter of if, but when. Will it happen while Vice President Pence is here in the region? Could it happen closer to April 25th, which is a major military anniversary here in North Korea? It could be neither of those dates; we just simply don’t know. But what we do know is that North Korea’s nuclear test site at Punggye-ri is primed and ready for the nation’s sixth nuclear test”
On 17 April in a conference call with reporters, State Department Acting Assistant Secretary Susan Thornton said, “The US would not stand idly by while North Korea develops and hones nuclear weapons.”
In response to a question about what the US would do in response to a sixth nuclear test, Thornton replied:
“some kind of major provocation like that would draw a pretty significant international response. We’re definitely not seeking conflict or regime change, but we are committed to defending our people and our allies should it be necessary.”
Right now it is anybody’s guess, but as the situation disintegrates, it seems someone very well may pull the trigger. The question is who.
Article written by Senior OpsLens Contributor Jon Harris.