North Korea

Increasing sanctions, US says talks with North Korea may be close

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States said Tuesday that talks with North Korea may be possible “in the near future” after Pyongyang reacted to tough new UN sanctions with a level of restraint.

But, in keeping with a “dual track” strategy of reaching out to the North diplomatically while increasing economic pressure, Washington also imposed new sanctions on Chinese and Russian firms suspected of doing business with Pyongyang.

Briefing reporters, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a point of acknowledging that Kim Jong-Un’s regime has not carried out any new nuclear or ballistic missile tests since the UN Security Council imposed a new round of tougher sanctions last month.

“I am pleased to see that the regime in Pyongyang has certainly demonstrated some level of restraint that we’ve not seen in the past,” Tillerson said. “We need to see more on their part, but I want to acknowledge the steps they’ve taken thus far. I think it’s important to take note of that.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a briefing at the Department of State, August 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP Pgoto/Brendan Smialowski)

US officials told AFP that Tillerson was not thanking Pyongyang, nor making any concession on Washington’s determination to halt Kim’s missile program and negotiate the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

But they said he did want to note what the US administration sees as a lowering in immediate tensions, in the hope that the isolated authoritarian regime will see an opening that could lead to dialogue.

‘Ready to restrain’?

Tensions between North Korea and the United States and its allies soared last month after Pyongyang tested two long-range missiles that appeared to bring US cities within its range.

US President Donald Trump vowed to respond with “fire and fury,” raising fears of a devastating regional conflict, and the UN Security Council scrambled to impose new punitive measures on the North.

Kim’s regime later postponed a threat to fire missiles towards the US Pacific island territory of Guam, and Washington said it would be open to dialogue if Pyongyang were to take steps to calm tensions.

This image made from video of an Aug. 14, 2017, still image broadcast in a news bulletin on August 15, 2017, by North Korea's KRT shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un receiving a briefing in Pyongyang.(KRT via AP Video)

On Tuesday, Tillerson suggested that progress can now be made.

“I think it is worth noting that we have had no missile launches or provocative acts on the part of North Korea since the unanimous adoption of the UN Security Council resolution,” he said. “And I want to take note of that. I want to acknowledge it.”

Tillerson said he hoped “that this is the beginning of this signal that we’ve been looking for — that they are ready to restrain their level of tensions, they’re ready to restrain their provocative acts and that perhaps we are seeing our pathway to sometime in the near future having some dialogue.”

Just before Tillerson alluded to the existence of a carrot to tempt North Korea, however, the US Treasury brandished its stick.

The agency slapped sanctions on 16 Chinese and Russian individuals and companies, accusing them of supporting North Korea’s nuclear program and attempting to evade US sanctions.

The sanctions are part of a broader US effort to disrupt the funding of North Korea’s weapons programs through its export of natural resources such as coal and minerals and foreign-based financial transactions undertaken for North Korean interests.

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill on July 27, 2017. (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

“It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia, and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Trump has urged Beijing, North Korea’s only major ally, to bring greater pressure to bear in reining in its neighbor’s nuclear efforts, suggesting that the United States may offer concessions on trade in return.

But a spokesperson at the Chinese embassy in Washington told AFP “we strongly urge the US to immediately correct its mistake, so as not to impact bilateral cooperation on relevant issues.”

“China opposes unilateral sanctions out of the UN Security Council framework, especially the ‘long-arm jurisdiction’ over Chinese entities and individuals exercised by any country in accordance with its domestic laws,” the spokesperson said.

Targets of sanctions

The sanctions block those targeted from accessing much of the global financial system and freeze any assets they might hold in areas under US jurisdiction.

Among those hit was Russian national Ruben Kirakosyan and his Moscow-based company Gefest-M LLC, which the Treasury accuses of procuring metals for a company involved in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program known as Korean Tangun Trading Corp.

Also targeted is China’s Dandong Rich Earth Trading, which the United States says has acted on behalf of North Korea’s General Bureau of Atomic Energy — responsible for the North’s nuclear program — and has facilitated prohibited North Korean exports of vanadium ore.

A third company, Mingzheng International Trading Limited, which maintains offices in Hong Kong and mainland China, is in fact a front for Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea’s main foreign exchange bank, the Treasury said.

The Treasury also alleged that three Chinese companies — Dandong Zhicheng Metallic Materials, JinHou International Holding and Dandong Tianfu Trade — had collectively imported nearly a half billion dollars’ worth of North Korean coal between 2013 and 2016.

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Jews Are Pushing War With North Korea

http://www.realjewnews.com/?p=1228

 

Besides having shared resistance to America’s menacing foreign policy…not much, unless the Jews are spinning it.

For out of the blue the JewStreamMedia is jabbering about Iran’s ‘nuclear relation’ to North Korea.

All it took was some shuck and jive.

[Clip: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and the fury like the world has never seen.”]

Jews love that kind of talk…and Matthew Levitt, head of the “Stein Program for Counter-Terrorism,” and Jason Gewirtz on CNBC, poured oil on the flame.

The headline reads:

“If North Korea can get away with building a nuclear weapon, then Iran can too.”

“Officials warn Iran could be the winner in the escalating crisis.”

Wait a minute.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirms that Iran is in compliance with the nuke deal and has NO plans to build a nuclear weapon.

But shills for Jewish warmongering look for smoking guns that blow no smoke.

[Clip: “Mr. President can you give us your latest opinion on Iran, and whether you think they are in compliance or will be in compliance?”
“I don’t think Iran is in compliance. We wrote them a tough letter. I personally don’t think they are in compliance.”]

That’s good enough for the Jews. Just say ‘it ain’t so,’ provide no proof, and presto! Just like Iraq’s WMDs, Iran’s a bandit!

Then we’ve got a slew of Jews at the Council on Foreign Relations shucking the jive:

Richard Haass, Ely Ratner, Gideon Rose, Robert Kahn, arguing ever so delicately that one way or another North Korea AND Iran must be stopped.

Follow the dots…it’s all Jewish sleight of hand.

Their boy Trump has been needling both North Korea AND Iran ever since he got cozy with Bibzy last February in DC.

The real issue, I mean, the ‘Jewish’ issue, they talked about?

If Trump fails to stop North Korea, the Iranians will be emboldened to break the nuclear deal, and obtain a nuke.

And a dog that’s mad (a war criminal too) won’t lose any sleep seeing a whole population wiped out.

He did it in Fallujah, what’s another ‘wipe out’ to him?

[Clip: “Tonight, a dire warning from Defense Secretary James Mattis that North Korea should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”]

That’s a mouth wielding mass destruction from a dog without a leash in charge of our foreign policy.

For soon, DC may use North Korea as bait to tempt Iran into breaking—or appearing to break—the nuclear deal, so Jewmerica can pounce on Iran and break the deal, or worse.

Which would mean lumping North Korea with Iran as ‘adversary states’ and bomb the “h” out of both of them.

“We can all sleep well at night,” said Tillerson, regarding North Korea’s nukes.

But the devil, and his agents, never sleeps.

S.KOREA’S MOON SAYS US TO SEEK SEOUL’S APPROVAL BEFORE ACTION ON N.KOREA

 

SEOUL – South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday US President Donald Trump has promised to seek Seoul’s approval before pursuing any option against nuclear-armed North Korea.

Trump’s recent aggressive comments about deploying possible military options underscored his resolve to counter the threat from the North’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.

However, they do not appear to have been made with the intention to take military action, Moon said at a news conference to mark his first 100 days in office.

Moon urged North Korea not to make further provocations, saying it would face much tougher sanctions that the impoverished country would be unable to withstand if it persists with its nuclear weapons development.

US AND JAPAN CONDUCT AIR DRILLS AS PYONGYANG CONSIDERS GUAM ATTACK

 

TOKYO – Japanese jets conducted air maneuvers with US bombers southwest of the Korean peninsula on Wednesday as North Korea considered whether to fire missiles towards the US-administered territory of Guam.

Reclusive North Korea has made no secret of its plan to develop a missile capable of firing a nuclear warhead at the United States to counter what it perceives as constant US threats of invasion.

It has ignored warnings from the West and from its lone major ally, China, to halt its nuclear and missile tests which it conducts in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

The exercise in the East China Sea involved two US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flying from Andersen Air Force Base on the Pacific island of Guam and two Japanese F-15 jet fighters, Japan’s Air Self Defense Force said in a news release.

“These training flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity and resolve we share with our allies to preserve peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” the US Air Force said in an announcement.

The US aircraft, which were designed to carry nuclear bombs and later switched to conventional payloads, have flown several sorties in East Asia over recent weeks. In addition to air drills with Japanese fighters, the bombers have also exercised with South Korean aircraft.

North Korea regards the US exercises with South Korea and Japan as preparations to invade it.

The exercises also upset China, which says they do nothing to ease tension.

On Wednesday, a senior Chinese military officer reiterated China’s position on the need to maintain peace and stability to the United States’ top general, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, China’s Defense Ministry said.

Song Puxuan, commander of China’s Northern Theater Command, stressed to Dunford that the North Korean nuclear issue must be resolved politically through talks, the ministry added, without saying where the two met.

The command is based in China’s northeastern city of Shenyang and has responsibility for a swath of northern China, including the border with North Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has delayed a decision on firing missiles towards Guam and US officials have since taken a gentler tone, but tension in the region nonetheless remains high.

The North Korean threats had prompted US President Donald Trump to say the US military was “locked and loaded” if North Korea acted unwisely. Those words in turn prompted a warning from China for both sides to tone down the rhetoric.

North Korea has often threatened to attack the United States and its bases in the region and it is likely to be infuriated by the current maneuvers and annual US-Japanese drills next week.

In his first public appearance in about two weeks, Kim on Monday inspected the command of North Korea’s army, examining the plan to fire four missiles aimed at landing near Guam, the official KCNA news agency reported.

“He said that if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity, testing the self-restraint of the DPRK, the latter will make an important decision as it already declared,” KCNA said.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.

Wednesday’s air exercise took place close to Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea which are also claimed by China. The uninhabited territory is known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

While the United States has declined to take sides in the dispute over the tiny islands, it nonetheless has said it would defend them from attack under its security alliance with Japan.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in a telephone conversation with Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s minister for foreign affairs, said tension on the Korean peninsula was showing some signs of easing but had not passed.

The parties involved should “make a correct judgment and wise choice by taking a responsible attitude toward history and people,” Wang said, according to a statement on his ministry’s website.

‘Saber Rattling’: What People in Asia Say About U.S.-North Korea Tensions

The war of words over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program has been as dramatic as it has been concerning.

Kim Jong Un’s regime has said the entire United States is in its sights. Not to be outdone, President Donald Trump has promised “fire and fury” in a departure from the more measured tones of previous U.S. presidents.

The increasing pattern of threat and counter-threat has led some to worry about potential miscommunication or miscalculation that could lead to armed conflict.

But the heated language has generally met with a cooler response on the streets of cities and towns across the Asia-Pacific region.

That’s despite people there potentially being in the firing line should the rhetoric escalate to military action.

South Korea

“It doesn’t impact our everyday life and things that happen on a daily basis,” said 31-year-old Paul Rader, a teacher in Seoul’s international school.

“The kind of tension around in the city among people is nonexistent here,” Rader adds. “Those of us who’ve been here for a long time, we tend to think it’s saber rattling.”

Not everyone in South Korea is so laid back, however.

Thousands took to the streets of Seoul Tuesday to protest against joint U.S. and South Korean military drills and the deployment of the THAAD missile system in the country.

Image: South Korean protesters shout slogans during an anti-U.S. rally
South Korean protesters shout slogans during an anti-U.S. rally demanding peace on the Korean Peninsula in Seoul on Tuesday. Jung Yeon-Je / AFP – Getty Images

Seoul is situated just 35 miles from the border with North Korea, well within range of its neighbor’s artillery.

More than 23,000 U.S. troops are also stationed in South Korea.

While most experts agree the U.S. and its allies would likely win any war with North Korea, doing so would almost certainly cost thousands of lives and cause huge destruction.

However, South Korea’s president, Moon Jae In, said Tuesday that any “military action on the Korean peninsula can only be decided by South Korea and no one else.”

Japan

In Japan, the entirety of which is within the range of North Korea’s weapons, leading politicians have spoken of “a new level of threat” in recent weeks.

Two North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) landed off the coast of Japan last month.

Japan is also the only country to ever have nuclear weapons used upon on it, when the U.S. did so in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

On the streets of Tokyo, feeling was mixed over the level of threat currently posed.

“What if North Korea misfires? There’s the possibility that a missile could fall into offshore territory or onto our land itself,” said one man who declined to give his name. “I’m a bit nervous.”

Image: Attendees hold doves, the symbol of peace
Attendees hold doves, the symbol of peace, for releasing on Tuesday in Tokyo, Japan, during a commemoration of the country’s WWII surrender. Taro Karibe / Getty Images

However, another chimed in with: “I’m a little scared but the situation doesn’t really concern me.”

American Michael Wright, who lives and works in Japan with his family. says he is unfazed by the situation and has no plans to leave.

He said: “They’ve [Japan] have been under threat for a long time so it doesn’t matter. The Chinese are flying planes in here, you know, a thousand times, the Russians are flying in, so they’ve been under this mode for a long time,” he added. “I think there is heightened awareness. But like I said, they’ve been living this way for a while now.”

Fellow U.S. citizen Karen Brady moved to Japan with her husband and one-year-old daughter. She too was unconcerned: “If the threat was for Japan, we wouldn’t have come,” she added. “I mean my concerns personally are if my daughter is having a good day at daycare and when the next earthquake’s going to be, because it kind of freaks me out.”

China

In the Chinese capital, Beijing, the threat of impending war was widely dismissed.

China is North Korea’s primary ally and not a target for the Kim Jong Un regime. But President Donald Trump has looked to Beijing to rein in North Korea and its weapons program.

“I don’t think it’s going to have an impact on my life at all,” said Xiaoxiao Zhan, a 25-year-old student at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Businesswoman Laura Wu, 52, said she was not nervous as there was no war. Even if there was, “the war will not be in China,” she added.

Guam

The U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, however, has been the subject of more specific threats of action.

North Korea has said it was giving serious consideration to a plan to fire missiles at Guam.

On Tuesday, two radio stations on the island accidentally played an emergency civil danger warning — the same warning that would sound in the event of an impending nuclear attack.

Guam’s homeland security office later issued a statement on Facebook saying that they will work with radio stations to ensure such human error does not occur again.

On one of Guam’s many picturesque beaches Tuesday, however, one holidaying American was unconcerned about the threat of conflict.

Image: Guam Daily Life
Aug. 12, 2017, shows a woman posing for a friend beneath a sign reading ‘No drugs or nuclear weapons allowed’ at the entrance to a restaurant in the Tamuning area of Guam. Ed Jones / AFP – Getty Images

Eugene Gutierrez, a 59-year-old expat who has lived in Manila for 10 years told NBC News that he tended not to believe the “rhetoric and words” that have been prominent in news broadcasts recently.

He added that he also trusted the U.S. government to “let us know” if there “things that are threatening to us.”

Back in Seoul, Rader believes each side is aware that the cost of military action will be high meaning it’s unlikely North Korea will push the envelope too far.

“If they preemptively strike … [it’s a] huge disaster for both sides, so I don’t see what they gain from that,” he said.

“I’m personally not afraid of what they might do because they would lose everything.”

And if he’s wrong and the worst does happen?

“We don’t have a plan,” he says. “We’re gonna hop on the moped and get out of the city I guess.”

North Korea’s Missile Success Is Linked to Ukrainian Plant, Investigators Say

North Korea’s success in testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears able to reach the United States was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful rocket engines probably from a Ukrainian factory with historical ties to Russia’s missile program, according to an expert analysis being published Monday and classified assessments by American intelligence agencies.

The studies may solve the mystery of how North Korea began succeeding so suddenly after a string of fiery missile failures, some of which may have been caused by American sabotage of its supply chains and cyberattacks on its launches. After those failures, the North changed designs and suppliers in the past two years, according to a new study by Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Such a degree of aid to North Korea from afar would be notable because President Trump has singled out only China as the North’s main source of economic and technological support. He has never blamed Ukraine or Russia, though his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, made an oblique reference to both China and Russia as the nation’s “principal economic enablers” after the North’s most recent ICBM launch last month.

Analysts who studied photographs of the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, inspecting the new rocket motors concluded that they derive from designs that once powered the Soviet Union’s missile fleet. The engines were so powerful that a single missile could hurl 10 thermonuclear warheads between continents.
Those engines were linked to only a few former Soviet sites. Government investigators and experts have focused their inquiries on a missile factory in Dnipro, Ukraine, on the edge of the territory where Russia is fighting a low-level war to break off part of Ukraine. During the Cold War, the factory made the deadliest missiles in the Soviet arsenal, including the giant SS-18. It remained one of Russia’s primary producers of missiles even after Ukraine gained independence.

But since Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was removed from power in 2014, the state-owned factory, known as Yuzhmash, has fallen on hard times. The Russians canceled upgrades of their nuclear fleet. The factory is underused, awash in unpaid bills and low morale. Experts believe it is the most likely source of the engines that in July powered the two ICBM tests, which were the first to suggest that North Korea has the range, if not necessarily the accuracy or warhead technology, to threaten American cities.

“It’s likely that these engines came from Ukraine — probably illicitly,” Mr. Elleman said in an interview. “The big question is how many they have and whether the Ukrainians are helping them now. I’m very worried.”

Bolstering his conclusion, he added, was a finding by United Nations investigators that North Korea tried six years ago to steal missile secrets from the Ukrainian complex. Two North Koreans were caught, and a U.N. report said the information they tried to steal was focused on advanced “missile systems, liquid-propellant engines, spacecraft and missile fuel supply systems.”

Investigators now believe that, amid the chaos of post-revolutionary Ukraine, Pyongyang tried again.

Mr. Elleman’s detailed analysis is public confirmation of what intelligence officials have been saying privately for some time: The new missiles are based on a technology so complex that it would have been impossible for the North Koreans to have switched gears so quickly themselves. They apparently fired up the new engine for the first time in September — meaning that it took only 10 months to go from that basic milestone to firing an ICBM, a short time unless they were able to buy designs, hardware and expertise on the black market.

The White House had no comment when asked about the intelligence assessments.

Last month, Yuzhmash denied reports that the factory complex was struggling for survival and selling its technologies abroad, in particular to China. Its website says the company does not, has not and will not participate in “the transfer of potentially dangerous technologies outside Ukraine.”

American investigators do not believe that denial, though they say there is no evidence that the government of President Petro O. Poroshenko, who recently visited the White House, had any knowledge or control over what was happening inside the complex.

On Monday, after this story was published, Oleksandr Turchynov, a top national security official in the government of Mr. Poroshenko, denied any Ukrainian involvement.
“This information is not based on any grounds, provocative by its content, and most likely provoked by Russian secret services to cover their own crimes,” Mr. Turchynov said. He said the Ukrainian government views North Korea as “totalitarian, dangerous and unpredictable, and supports all sanctions against this country.”

How the Russian-designed engines, called the RD-250, got to North Korea is still a mystery.

Mr. Elleman was unable to rule out the possibility that a large Russian missile enterprise, Energomash, which has strong ties to the Ukrainian complex, had a role in the transfer of the RD-250 engine technology to North Korea. He said leftover RD-250 engines might also be stored in Russian warehouses.

But the fact that the powerful engines did get to North Korea, despite a raft of United Nations sanctions, suggests a broad intelligence failure involving the many nations that monitor Pyongyang.

Since President Barack Obama ordered a step-up in sabotage against the North’s missile systems in 2014, American officials have closely monitored their success. They appeared to have won a major victory last fall, when Mr. Kim ordered an end to flight tests of the Musudan, an intermediate-range missile that was a focus of the American sabotage effort.

But no sooner had Mr. Kim ordered a stand-down of that system than the North rolled out engines of a different design. And those tests were more successful.

American officials will not say when they caught on to the North’s change of direction. But there is considerable evidence they came to it late.

Leon Panetta, the former C.I.A. director, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the North Korean drive to get workable ICBMs that could be integrated with nuclear weapons moved more quickly than the intelligence community had expected.

“The rapid nature of how they’ve been able to come to that capability is something, frankly, that has surprised both the United States and the world,” he said.
It is unclear who is responsible for selling the rockets and the design knowledge, and intelligence officials have differing theories about the details. But Mr. Elleman makes a strong circumstantial case that would implicate the deteriorating factory complex and its underemployed engineers.

“I feel for those guys,” said Mr. Elleman, who visited the factory repeatedly a decade ago while working on federal projects to curb weapon threats. “They don’t want to do bad things.”

Dnipro has been called the world’s fastest-shrinking city. The sprawling factory, southeast of Kiev and once a dynamo of the Cold War, is having a hard time finding customers.

American intelligence officials note that North Korea has exploited the black market in missile technology for decades, and built an infrastructure of universities, design centers and factories of its own.

It has also recruited help: In 1992, officials at a Moscow airport stopped a team of missile experts from traveling to Pyongyang.
That was only a temporary setback for North Korea. It obtained the design for the R-27, a compact missile made for Soviet submarines, created by the Makeyev Design Bureau, an industrial complex in the Ural Mountains that employed the rogue experts apprehended at the Moscow airport.

But the R-27 was complicated, and the design was difficult for the North to copy and fly successfully.

Eventually, the North turned to an alternative font of engine secrets — the Yuzhmash plant in Ukraine, as well as its design bureau, Yuzhnoye. The team’s engines were potentially easier to copy because they were designed not for cramped submarines but roomier land-based missiles. That simplified the engineering.

Economically, the plant and design bureau faced new headwinds after Russia in early 2014 invaded and annexed Crimea, a part of Ukraine. Relations between the two nations turned icy, and Moscow withdrew plans to have Yuzhmash make new versions of the SS-18 missile.

In July 2014, a report for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace warned that such economic upset could put Ukrainian missile and atomic experts “out of work and could expose their crucial know-how to rogue regimes and proliferators.”

The first clues that a Ukrainian engine had fallen into North Korean hands came in September when Mr. Kim supervised a ground test of a new rocket engine that analysts called the biggest and most powerful to date.

Norbert Brügge, a German analyst, reported that photos of the engine firing revealed strong similarities between it and the RD-250, a Yuzhmash model.

CIA chief says ‘nothing imminent’ in US-North Korea standoff

WASHINGTON, DC — CIA director Mike Pompeo offered assurances Sunday there was “nothing imminent” in the US standoff with nuclear-armed North Korea, but said he wouldn’t be surprised if Pyongyang conducted another missile test.

Pompeo’s remarks cap a week in which US President Donald Trump vowed “fire and fury” if North Korea continued to threaten the United States with nuclear weapons, and Pyongyang countered by announcing plans to test-launch missiles toward Guam.

Asked how worried people should be, Pompeo told Fox News Sunday: “Nothing imminent.”

“There’s nothing imminent today. But make no mistake about it … the increased chance that there will be a nuclear missile in Denver is a very serious threat.”

Pressed on his “nothing imminent” statement, Pompeo said: “What I’m talking about is, I’ve heard folks talking about that we have been on the cusp of a nuclear war. No intelligence that would indicate we are in that place today.”

He said the US intelligence community has “a pretty good idea” about what’s going on in North Korea.

In this July 28, 2017, file photo distributed by the North Korean government on Saturday, July 29, 2017, shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

He added that he was confident North Korea would continue to develop its missile capabilities under its leader Kim Jong-Un, “so it wouldn’t surprise me if there was another test.”

“He conducted two in July, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s another missile test,” Pompeo said.

The missile tests last month demonstrated that the nuclear-armed regime now has intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the US mainland, experts said.

The Washington Post reported this week that the US Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that North Korea has developed a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could be put atop an ICBM.

Pompeo declined to say how long it will be before North Korea could carry out such a nuclear attack on the US mainland.

“It is probably fair to say that they are moving towards that at an ever alarming rate.”

NORTH KOREA DEADLINE ON GUAM LOOMS AMID TRUMP WARNINGS

 

WASHINGTON – North Korea’s military leadership is fast approaching a self-imposed mid-August deadline to present its marshal and supreme leader, Kim Jong Un, with plans to fire missiles into the waters around the US territory of Guam – a detailed threat of intentional provocation that has brought the region to the point of crisis.

US President Donald Trump spoke with the governor of Guam on Friday, vowing to protect the territory should North Korea follow through with its public plan. A senior general within North Korea’s leadership specified last week that four missiles would be fired into seas just short of the island – home to 163,000 American citizens and two US military bases – upon Kim’s approval, as a message to Washington of its willingness to engage.

Trump responded with an exceptional threat: Pyongyang would incur “fire and fury” the likes of which the world has never before seen, said the president. In the days since that threat was issued, Trump has doubled down, meeting with his national security staff to discuss ways to ameliorate the crisis or else confront the North militarily.

The crisis amounts to the most direct threat of military confrontation between North Korea and the US since a brutal war on the peninsula ended in an armistice along the demilitarized zone in 1953. North Korea has since developed a nuclear weapons program, and US intelligence agencies now believe the communist regime is close to perfecting a delivery system for those weapons that can reach the continental United States.

Trump told Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo that tourism would boom on the island due to the attention it has received over the international crisis.

Trump told reporters on Thursday that he would respond if something happened “in Guam,” but did not address the North Korea’s more specific threat of striking around the perimeter of the island.

He also spoke by phone with China’s president, whom the Trump administration considers critical to the diffusion of the crisis. In a statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said President Xi Jinping told Trump that a peaceful resolution was essential, and urged calm.

“Concerned parties must exercise restraint and avoid remarks and actions that escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula,” it cited Xi as saying.

In their phone call, Trump and Xi “agreed North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behavior,” the White House said in a statement, and reiterated their mutual commitment to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

It added the relationship between Trump and Xi was “extremely close” and “will hopefully lead to a peaceful resolution of the North Korea problem.”

Again referring to Kim, Trump said, “If he utters one threat… or if he does anything with respect to Guam or any place else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast.”

In remarks to reporters after a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Trump said the situation with North Korea was “very dangerous and it will not continue.

“We will see what happens,” Trump said. “We think that lots of good things could happen, and we could also have a bad solution.”

Russian and German leadership expressed concern in recent days over the president’s rhetoric, after he wrote on Twitter that the US is “locked and loaded” ahead of any action by the North. He later retweeted a message from US Pacific Command saying it was ready to “#FightTonight” on the Korean Peninsula, if need be.

A long-planned military exercise in the region, held by the US and South Korea, will proceed as planned, Pentagon officials said.

Xi urges Trump to avoid exacerbating N. Korea tensions

BEIJING (AFP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping urged US President Donald Trump on Saturday to avoid rhetoric that could inflame tensions with North Korea as an escalating war of words raised global alarm.

Xi made the plea in a phone call hours after Trump ramped up his warnings to Pyongyang, saying the Stalinist regime would “truly regret” taking hostile action against the United States.

The White House said in a statement that the two leaders “agreed North Korea must stop provocative and escalatory behavior” and that they are both committed to the denuclearization of the peninsula.

But the Chinese foreign ministry said Xi urged Trump to avoid “words and deeds” that would “exacerbate” the already-tense situation, exercise restraint and seek a political settlement.

Delegates applaud as China's President Xi Jinping makes his way to the podium to deliver a speech at a ceremony to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on August 1, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Andy WONG)

Trump has been engaged all week in verbal sparring with the North over its weapons and missile programs, as US media reported Pyongyang has successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead.

The Republican billionaire has progressively ramped up the tone throughout the week and on Friday declared that the US military is “locked and loaded.”

In a call with Guam Governor Eddie Calvo on Friday, Trump said the US military is prepared to “ensure the safety and security of the people of Guam” in response to Pyongyang’s plans to launch missiles towards the Pacific territory.

Japanese media said Tokyo was deploying its Patriot missile defense system following Pyongyang’s threat to fire ballistic missiles over the country towards Guam.

Fire and fury

In another move that could further fan the flames, satellite photos posted by defense expert Joseph Bermudez suggested that North Korea could be preparing for fresh submarine-based ballistic missile tests.

Trump had earlier brandished a threat of unleashing “fire and fury” on Pyongyang, then noted Thursday maybe that statement “wasn’t tough enough.”

China, North Korea’s biggest ally and trade partner, has been voicing concern at the mounting exchanges and a state-run newspaper suggested that Beijing should stay neutral if Pyongyang struck the US first.

Previously accused by Trump of not doing enough to rein in the authoritarian regime, China voted in favor of a series of wide-sweeping UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea last weekend.

According to the Chinese foreign ministry, Trump told Xi over the phone that he “fully understands China’s role in the nuclear issue in the Korean Peninsula.” Trump is expected to visit China later this year.

The North’s official KCNA news service in an editorial blamed Trump for “driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war,” calling the US “the heinous nuclear war fanatic.”

People wave banners and shout slogans as they attend a rally in support of North Korea's stance against the US, on Kim Il-Sung square in Pyongyang on August 9, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / KIM Won-Jin)

The sabre-rattling has sparked worldwide concerns that a miscalculation by either side could trigger a catastrophic conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

Russia and Germany have also urged both sides to tone down the rhetoric.

“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!” Trump wrote Friday from his golf club retreat in New Jersey, where he is on a working vacation.

Moscow ‘alarmed’

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was “very alarmed” at Trump’s tough talk, and said Washington should take the first step toward cooling tensions.

“When a fight has nearly broken out, the first step away from the dangerous threshold should be taken by the side that is stronger and smarter,” Lavrov said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said diplomacy was the answer.

“Germany will very intensively take part in the options for resolution that are not military but I consider a verbal escalation to be the wrong response,” she said.

Nearly a week ago, the UN Security Council unanimously passed fresh sanctions against Pyongyang over its weapons program, including export bans, a new punishment that could cost North Korea $1 billion a year.

“This is clearly a time for all the parties to focus on how to de-escalate and lower the tensions,” said the spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Tensions on the peninsula tend to increase when Seoul and Washington launch major military joint exercises, and the next, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, is set to kick off around August 21.

Tragedy of war

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appeared intent Thursday on easing the tension, describing the prospect of war as “catastrophic” and saying diplomacy remained the priority.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (not in picture) give a press statement prior to a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on June 28, 2017. (AFP Photo/Christof Stache)

Asked Friday if Mattis was aware of Trump’s latest tweet, spokesman Colonel Rob Manning simply said the Pentagon chief was “in close and constant contact with the president.”

A White House official noted: “There are military plans for just about any crisis we may face in the world… This isn’t anything new.”

Relations between Washington and Pyongyang have been tense for months, in the wake of the North’s repeated missile tests, including two successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test launches in July that are believed to have brought much of the US mainland within range.

North Korea raised hackles in the United States when it announced a detailed plan to send four missiles over Japan and towards Guam, an island territory of some 165,000 people, where some 6,000 US soldiers are based.