Trump to act “very strongly”

Tough Donald trump talk on the North Korea threat.

Reuters: Trump pledges to act ‘very strongly’ on North Korea missile threat

U.S. President Donald Trump vowed on Thursday to confront North Korea “very strongly” following its latest missile test and urged nations to show Pyongyang there would be consequences for its weapons program.

Speaking at a news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Trump said North Korea was “a threat, and we will confront it very strongly”.

He said the United States was considering “severe things” for North Korea, but that he would not draw a “red line” of the kind that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had drawn but not enforced on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Trump added: “… they are behaving in a very, very dangerous manner and something will have to be done.”

Are Donald Trump’s words a sign of very strong action against North Korea, or is it just very strong rhetoric?

I’m sure South Korea, Japan and China in particular would like to know given that they are closer to the firing line.

Tensions and threats have increased substantially since Trump took over the presidency. Who is being the most provocative? Who is most likely to push the hostile missile button first?

Independence Day

It’s the fourth of July in the US, their Independence Day. Fox News has just tweeted:

But just prior to this Fox also shows how non-isolated and independent of international affairs the US is.

Fox News: Russia trolls US, Trump with Fourth of July tweet

The Russian embassy reminded Americans in a tweet Tuesday that a Fourth of July musical staple was actually written about one of that country’s own wars.

“Dear Americans, happy Independence Day! Learn more about Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, now a July Fourth tradition,” the embassy wrote.

The tweet included a link to a Sputnik news agency story about the song’s origins and was published Tuesday as tension rose with Russia over North Korea’s missile program. Both Russia and China announced a joint agreement challenging Trump and urging an end to joint exercises with South Korea.

And the Russian threat to US democracy:

FoxPollHacking

But when they meet at the G20 summit Trump has said he won’t discuss Russian hacking with Putin.

And from Reuters:

As Trump heads to his first face-to-face meeting as president with Putin on Friday at the G20 summit in Germany, he is under pressure at home to take a tough line with the Kremlin.

Allegations of Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. election have alarmed both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, who are pushing to extend tough sanctions placed on Russia following its 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula belonging to Ukraine.

Lawmakers including Republican Senator Cory Gardner are also concerned Russia has prolonged the civil war in Syria by backing its President Bashar al-Assad, a strongman whose forces have used chemical weapons against insurgents and civilians. The chaos has fueled instability in the region and a flood of migrants to Europe.

“President (Trump) needs to make it clear that the continued aggression by Russia around the globe … is unacceptable, and that they will be held accountable,” said Gardner, who was among six lawmakers invited by the White House last month to discuss foreign policy with Trump over dinner.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded Russia sponsored hacking of Democratic Party groups last year to benefit Trump over his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton. Russia has denied those allegations while Trump has repeatedly dismissed the idea of any coordination between his campaign and Russia as a “witch hunt.”

Still, just the optics of Trump meeting with Putin, a former KGB agent, are fraught with risk, foreign policy experts say.

Trump has signaled an interest in cooperating with Russia to defeat Islamic State in Syria and to reduce nuclear stockpiles.

The lack of a unified strategy has left U.S. allies anxious. And it has lowered expectations for American leadership to help resolve crises in Syria and Ukraine, where Russian cooperation would be critical.

“Trump is like a horse with his front legs tied,” said a German diplomat, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity. “He can’t make any big leaps forward on Russia. If he tried people would immediately suspect it was all part of some big conspiracy.”

Speaking with reporters last week about Trump’s upcoming meeting with Putin, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said his boss would like “the United States and the entire West to develop a more constructive relationship with Russia. But he’s also made clear that we will do what is necessary to confront Russia’s destabilizing behavior.”

The White House has been mum on what Trump would be willing to give Russia in exchange for that help.

Other Washington veterans say Trump won’t be able to make meaningful progress with Russia on anything until he confronts Putin about the suspected election meddling.

“(Trump) really has to raise the Russian election hacking last year, and has to say something like, ‘Vladimir, don’t do this again. There will be consequences,'” said Steve Pifer, a long-time State Department official focused on U.S.-Russia relations.

So far Trump has shown little inclination to do so, a situation that has heightened speculation about the potential impact from his coming encounter with the Russian leader.

“The shadow of all these investigations hangs over this,” said Angela Stent, a professor at Georgetown University and former National Intelligence Officer for Russia.

Being President was never going to be easy.

Neither was being independent going to be, not just for the US but also for countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Qatar or South Korea.

North Korean missile test

North Korea has successfully launched a test ballistic missile that could have a range of at least 4,000 km – two thirds of the distance to the US.

BBC: North Korea carries out new ballistic missile test

Japanese officials say the missile, which launched from north-western Kusong, reached an altitude of 2,000km.

The nature of the launch is still being determined, but analysts have said the test could suggest a longer range than previously tested devices.

The Japanese defence minister said it flew for about 30 minutes before falling in the Sea of Japan and could be a new type of missile.

Tomomi Inada said it covered a distance of about 700km (435 miles), reaching an altitude of more than 2,000km (1,245 miles) – higher than that reached by an intermediate-range missile North Korea fired in February.

If the Japanese analysis of the trajectory is right (that the missile reached an altitude of 2,000km), North Korea appears to have advanced its technology markedly.

Experts quoted by Reuters say the altitude meant the missile was launched at a high trajectory, limiting the lateral distance it travelled. They say if it had been fired at a standard trajectory, it would have had a range of at least 4,000km.

The US Pacific Command said in a statement the type was being assessed but that its flight was not consistent with that of an ICBM, which would have the range to reach the US mainland (more than 6,000km).

This will raise concerns and tensions.

South Korea’s newly elected President Moon Jae-in, who is seeking deeper engagement with the North, said it was a “reckless provocation”.

The White House said President Donald Trump “cannot imagine Russia is pleased” because the missile did not land far from Russian territory.

A Kremlin spokesperson later said Russian President Vladimir Putin was concerned by the test.

China, North Korea’s only major ally, called for restraint by “all relevant parties” in the wake of the latest test.

I’m not sure that either Kim Jong-un or Donald Trump are able or willing to exercise restraint, at least with their rhetoric.

 

 

Trump raises concerns over Duterte

Donald Trump has caused a stir over a phone call he made to President Duterte of the Philippines.

NY Times: Trump’s ‘Very Friendly’ Talk With Duterte Stuns Aides and Critics Alike

When President Trump called President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines on Saturday, White House officials saw it as part of a routine diplomatic outreach to Southeast Asian leaders. Mr. Trump, characteristically, had his own ideas.

During their “very friendly conversation,” the administration said in a late-night statement, Mr. Trump invited Mr. Duterte, an authoritarian leader accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines, to visit him at the White House.

Now, the administration is bracing for an avalanche of criticism from human rights groups. Two senior officials said they expected the State Department and the National Security Council, both of which were caught off guard by the invitation, to raise objections internally.

“By essentially endorsing Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, Trump is now morally complicit in future killings,” said John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. “Although the traits of his personality likely make it impossible, Trump should be ashamed of himself.”

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Twitter, “We are watching in real time as the American human rights bully pulpit disintegrates into ash.”

Administration officials said the call to Mr. Duterte was one of several to Southeast Asian leaders that the White House arranged after picking up signs that the leaders felt neglected because of Mr. Trump’s intense focus on China, Japan and tensions over North Korea. On Sunday, Mr. Trump spoke to the prime ministers of Singapore and Thailand; both got White House invitations.

Mr. Duterte’s toxic reputation had already given pause to some in the White House. The Philippines is set to host a summit meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in November, and officials said there had been a brief debate about whether Mr. Trump should attend.

It is not even clear, given the accusations of human rights abuses against him, that Mr. Duterte would be granted a visa to the United States were he not a head of state, according to human rights advocates.

Still, Mr. Trump’s affinity for Mr. Duterte, and other strongmen as well, is firmly established.

This is just one more area of international concern.

Fox News: Trump on North Korea: ‘Nobody’s safe’

President Trump, in an interview with Fox News’ Eric Bolling set to air Monday on the premiere of “The Fox News Specialists,” said “nobody’s safe” amid mounting tensions with North Korea.

As Trump weighs his options for trying to blunt Pyongyang’s nuclear advancements, Bolling asked how safe U.S. troops along the demilitarized zone and South Korea allies are at this time.

“Nobody’s safe. I mean, who’s safe? The guy’s got nuclear weapons,” Trump responded. “I’d like to say they’re very safe. These are great brave solders, these are great brave troops and they know the situation. We have 28,000 troops on the line and they’re right there. And so nobody’s safe. We’re probably not safe over here.”

Trump added, “If he gets the long-range missiles, we’re not safe either.”

That’s not very reassuring.

Fox News: Trump’s Civil War comment draws fire

President Trump is taking heat for questioning why the Civil War had to be fought and suggesting President Andrew Jackson could have mediated the dispute without bloodshed.

The president made the comments in an interview with The Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito.

He dived into Civil War history after citing comparisons between his and Jackson’s campaign for the presidency, describing that race as “nasty” and calling Jackson a “swashbuckler.”

Appearing to cast Jackson as a dealmaker like himself, he propounded a thought exercise:

“I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was … a very tough person, but he had a big heart,” Trump said. “And he was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, ‘There’s no reason for this.'”

He added, “People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War … if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

During his presidency, Jackson confronted South Carolina secession threats and in doing so helped preserve the union, temporarily. But Jackson died in 1845, 16 years before the start of the Civil War – which was driven largely by the clash over slavery and other issues.

 

North Korean nuclear threat ‘is real’

After the Iraq debacle the world should be very sceptical of claims that crappy regimes have weapons that demand urgent military action.

But nuclear risks are so large, potentially threatening the well being of the whole plant, that any nuclear threat is a major concern. As are the increasing rhetoric and tensions over North Korea.

Nuclear weapons can be used as a threat. They can also be used as a deterrence to being attacked.

So far that has more or less worked for those countries that have acquired them, but there is always a very real concern that a mad or irresponsible leader will use nuclear weapons pre-emptively, or just out of spite, or under pressure, or to play to a domestic audience, or for any number of reasons.

A nuclear attack is most likely when, not if. The timing, and the degree of escalation and destruction, are probably all that is in doubt, along with who pushes the button.

Vox: North Korea’s growing nuclear threat, in one statistic

Here is the most frightening thing you’ll read all day: Growing numbers of US intelligence officials believe North Korea can produce a new nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks.

That’s one of the most jarring takeaways in an exhaustive New York Times story about North Korea’s rapidly expanding nuclear program — and the decades of US efforts that have tried, and failed, to slow it. The Trump administration plans to detail its own approach Wednesday when it brings the entire US Senate to the White House for a highly unusual briefing on the North Korean threat.

The threat is real. Here are a few more details, courtesy of the Times’s David Sanger and William Broad. North Korea is on pace to have 50 nuclear weapons by 2020. It already knows how to miniaturize those weapons so they can fit into missiles capable of hitting Japan, South Korea, and the tens of thousands of US troops stationed in those two countries. And a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the US — while not yet in Pyongyang’s arsenal — is now seen as a genuine possibility.

The reclusive country’s steady efforts to develop that type of missile, the Times reports, “have resulted in North Korean warheads that in a few years could reach Seattle.”

That’s not all. As Alex Ward wrote for Vox, South Korea’s capital of Seoul is well within range of the thousands of conventional weapons in North Korea’s enormous arsenal. Pyongyang could devastate the city of 25 million people without needing to use a nuclear weapon.

The threat to South Korea from conventional attack has been well known for decades.

All of that means President Trump faces the same hard question that bedeviled George W. Bush and Barack Obama before him: whether to risk war to prevent one of the world’s most unstable governments from building more of the world’s most dangerous weapons — including some capable of one day hitting the US.

This is, without doubt, a genuinely scary moment, with Washington and Pyongyang both making increasingly explicit threats against each other.

The Trump administration has specifically talked about a preemptive strike against North Korea and has a large US Navy carrier strike group steaming toward the region (yes, the same one that Trump had falsely said was heading there last week). And a US submarine docked in South Korea Tuesday as part of an explicit show of force.

North Korea has responded with threats to sink a US aircraft carrier and destroy American military bases in Japan (it’s far from clear the country could pull off either one). On Tuesday, it test-fired huge numbers of its artillery pieces (which are basically large guns capable of hitting distant targets), including many of the ones capable of striking South Korea. Many observers expect North Korea to conduct a nuclear test — its sixth in the past 11 years — as soon as the end of this week.

Still, none of this means that war is inevitable — or likely.

I’m not so sure about the likely bit. North Korea is being put under increasing pressure, and Donald Trump hasn’t exactly earned the world’s trust yet by any means.

Philly.com: Two bad options on North Korea: Acceptance or war

The Trump administration’s approach to the deadly serious problem of North Korea is the worst of all possible formulations. It is Teddy Roosevelt, turned upside down – “Speak loudly, and pretend to carry a big stick.”

What the administration wants is absolutely the ideal objective, to prevent North Korea from acquiring the capability to launch nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles at the United States.
But the means being discussed, such as putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism (“sticks and stones may break my bones…”), banning the North Korean airline from flying places it will never fly anyway, and banning the import of North Korean seafood (seriously?), are almost comically insufficient to the problem. Then there’s the “armada,” 3,500 miles away, but, maybe, on the way. These things, and other non-military options which might be considered, all pale by comparison to both the carrots and sticks that have already been used by prior presidents.

The hope that President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson can persuade China to exercise maximum leverage against North Korea — perhaps shutting off energy supplies, or stopping the regime  from reaching nuclear ICBM capability through sanctions-backed diplomacy, while also preventing it from “going out with a bang” if it thought it would be stopped — is almost certainly a mirage. Likewise, even the best offensive cyber-wafare operations can do little more than slow down the march toward nuclear capability against us.

Even limited preemptive military action won’t work. How could merely wounding and cornering a fierce animal not lead to a rageful last gasp of dreadful retaliation?

There is a good reason none of these are viable options. It’s because, from the North Korean point of view, only achieving that most fearsome military capability can provide reasonable assurance of this regime’s long-term existence.

So here is the truly horrible truth about North Korea. There are only two choices.

The first is that we acknowledge and accept, as we have done with Russian and Chinese ICBM capabilities for decades, and then try to deter and contain, and to defend against, a North Korea able to strike us with nuclear weapons.

…the alternative, the only alternative, is war. War waged to victory, not stalemate. War waged and won before the North Koreans achieve their weapons development goal. War waged with both sufficient force and tactical surprise, so as to not leave the opponent wounded, cornered, and still able to lash out.

This means the WWII notion of war, one aimed at toppling the enemy regime and destroying its capacity for harm, not limited “surgical strikes” aimed to send messages or merely degrade the other side. In the case of North Korea, limited war would almost certainly lead to total war, which would likely include the North’s use of nuclear weapons. So if any use of force will very probably lead to total war, it needs to be total war from the outset, on the most advantageous terms from our perspective.

Frightful though it surely is, there is a clock ticking on this decision, and sound judgments cannot be made on the basis of false premises. Our choices are both bad and difficult. Our choices are acceptance or war.

It’s hard to see any alternatives to those two options.

 

Australia threatened with nuclear retaliation

“If Australia persists in following the US moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK and remains a shock brigade of the US master, this will be a suicidal act of coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of the DPRK.”

Hot air probably, but this is getting a bit too close to home.

1 News: Australia threatened of nuclear retaliation from North Korea following sanctions talk

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has reportedly sparked a threat of nuclear retaliation from North Korea after saying the rogue nation will be subject to further Australian sanctions.

North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency yesterday quoted a foreign ministry spokesman accusing the Australian foreign minister of “spouting a string of rubbish again.

“If Australia persists in following the US moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK and remains a shock brigade of the US master, this will be a suicidal act of coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of the DPRK.”

Ms Bishop said on Thursday that the sanctions were to send “the clearest possible message to North Korea, that its behaviour will not be tolerated, that a nuclear-armed North Korea is not acceptable to our region”.

She also urged China to step up pressure on North Korea to stamp out its belligerent and illegal behaviour.

In the report from Pyongyang, the North Korean ministry spokesman accused the Australian government of “blindly and zealously toeing the US line” and said Ms Bishop had “better think twice” about the consequences of her “reckless tongue- lashing”.

“It is hard to expect good words from the foreign minister of such government. But if she is the foreign minister of a country, she should speak with elementary common sense about the essence of the situation,” the spokesman said.

“It is entirely attributable to the nuclear threat escalated by the US and its anachronistic policy hostile to the DPRK that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is inching close to the brink of war in an evil cycle of increasing tensions.”

This is probably just more rhetoric, hot air, rather than an actual threat.

But if North Korea does try a nuclear strike it would probably be easier to hit Australia rather than the US – it’s closer and probably far less protected.

A Northern Hemisphere nuclear strike would be bad enough, but in the mid latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere New Zealand would be at less risk than most countries.

A nuclear attack on Australia is a different matter. The usual weather drift is from there to here.

North Korea probably doesn’t have the weapons nor the delivery systems to hit Australia.

But if they did, and if they did strike Australia, then things get even more serious for us here in New Zealand. And there’s a lot of Kiwi family in Aus.

The Nation: US and North Korea

This weekend on The Nation:

Is the show down between North Korea and the US just posturing?
Lisa Owen talks to Washington Post correspondent Anna Fifield.

Stuff: Russia denies moving troops to border with North Korea

Russian authorities are denying reports that they are moving troops to the border with North Korea over growing tensions in the Korean peninsula.

The Interfax news agency on Friday quoted Alexander Gordeyev, spokesman for the Far Eastern Military district, as saying that the movement of heavy weaponry, caught on film and widely distributed on social media, is part of “absolutely scheduled manoeuvres of combat readiness”.

Gordeyev said the military hardware was on its way back from drills elsewhere and denied any connection to the tensions around North Korea’s nuclear program.

In Moscow, first deputy chairman of the defence committee at the Federation Council, Frants Klintsevich, told RIA Novosti the movement was pre-planned and dismissed reports suggesting Russia was preparing for a possible US attack on North Korea as speculation.

Global News: South Korea on heightened alert amid concerns over new North Korea nuke test

South Korea said on Friday it was on heightened alert ahead of another important anniversary in North Korea, with a large concentration of military hardware amassed on both sides of the border amid concerns about a new nuclear test by Pyongyang.

North Korea said late on Friday the state of affairs on the Korean peninsula was “extremely perilous” because of “madcap American nuclear war manoeuvres aimed at trampling on our sovereignty and right to survival.”

U.S. officials said there was a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers, signalling a possible heightened state of readiness by reclusive North Korea’s sole major ally, although the officials played down concern and left open a range of possible reasons. Beijing denied its aircraft were on an increased level of alert.

 

Big dicks from North Korea to Iran

While North Korean ‘pre-emptive strike’ rhetoric has ramped up the US has added Iran to it’s nuclear targets.

Reuters: North Korea warns of ‘super-mighty preemptive strike’ as U.S. plans next move

North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear programme.

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 U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes,” it said.

This follows multi-pronged verbal attacks from the US.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, on a tour of Asian allies, has said repeatedly an “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said during a visit to London the military option must be part of the pressure brought to bear.

Tillerson told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that the United States was “reviewing all the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang.”

And Tillerson has also aimed similar threats at Iran.

NBC News: Tillerson: Iran Left ‘Unchecked’ Could Follow North Korea’s Path

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday the United States will conduct a “comprehensive review” of its policy toward Iran, including the 2016 nuclear deal, which he said had merely delayed Iran’s goal of becoming a nuclear state.

“This deal represents the same failed approach of the past that brought us to the current imminent threat we face in North Korea,” Tillerson said. “The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran. The evidence is clear Iran’s provocative actions threaten the U.S., the region and the world.”

Tillerson notified Congress on Tuesday that despite finding that Iran was meeting the terms of the deal, the Trump administration was reviewing whether to break from the agreement, saying in part that Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Iran is closely involved in supporting the Assad government in the Syrian civil war. The US launched a military strike against a Syrian airfield recently.

The US also tried out their biggest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan last week. This didn’t go down well with ex-president Hamid Karzai.

Time: The Former President of Afghanistan Called the Recent U.S. Bombing ‘an Immense Atrocity’

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday that the U.S. is using Afghanistan as a weapons testing ground, calling the recent use of the largest-ever non-nuclear bomb “an immense atrocity against the Afghan people.”

Last week, U.S. forces dropped the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb in eastern Nangarhar province, reportedly killing 95 militants. Karzai, in an interview with The Associated Press, objected to the decision, saying that his country “was used very disrespectfully by the U.S. to test its weapons of mass destruction.”

The office of President Ashraf Ghani said following the bomb’s usage that there was “close coordination” between the U.S. military and the Afghan government over the operation, and they were careful to prevent any civilian casualties.

But Karzai harshly criticized the Afghan government for allowing the use of the bomb.

“How could a government of a country allow the use of a weapon of mass destruction on its own territory? Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, how could they allow that? It just unimaginable,” he said.

Since the missile strike and the massive bomb drop the US has launched a war of words on multiple fronts, from Iran to North Korea.

This is a very risky strategy by the Trump regime. The threats and shows of military force may pay off. They could also end very badly if someone’s provocation (from any side) goes too far.

There’s also risks of perception of provocation and unintended consequences, especially if Korea or Iran or Syria or ISIS or Al Qaeda get reported on Fox News insulting the size of Donald Trump’s ego.

The well being of parts of the world, and possibly the whole world, is dependant on the temperaments and self control of a small bunch of bozos, some of whom (on the US side) have no experience with international diplomacy or military strategy.

Big dicks with big weapons are a worry.

Pence posturing continues

Despite many experts and many more ordinary people have serious concerns about provocative posturing over North Korea Vice Mike Pence continues to ramp up the rhetoric along with military visuals.

RCP: VP Pence to North Korea: “The Sword Stands Ready”

From the wind-swept deck of a massive aircraft carrier, Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the U.S. military, promising it would make an “overwhelming and effective” response to any use of conventional or nuclear weapons.

Pence, dressed in a green military jacket, said aboard the hulking USS Ronald Reagan that President Donald Trump’s administration would continue to “work diligently” with allies like Japan, China and other global powers to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang. But he told the sailors, “as all of you know, readiness is the key.

“The United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready,” Pence told 2,500 sailors dressed in blue fatigues and Naval baseball caps on a sunny, windy morning aboard the carrier at the U.S. Yokosuka naval base in Tokyo Bay.

“Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know, we will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response,” Pence said.

From two continents, Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned that North Korea’s latest failed missile launch was a reckless act of provocation and assured allies in Asia that the U.S. was ready to work to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Mattis denounced North Korea’s attempted missile launch as he began a Middle East tour, telling reporters traveling with him to Saudi Arabia, “the leader of North Korea again recklessly tried to provoke something by launching a missile,” he said. The term “reckless” is one the North Koreans have used to describe ongoing large-scale U.S. and South Korean military exercises, which the North calls a dress rehearsal for an invasion.

Posturing peace from an aircraft carrier saying “the sword stands ready” is not very reassuring.

Trump and Pence, who stopped at the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea on Monday, have signaled this week a forceful U.S. stance on North Korea’s recent actions. But it remains unclear what might come next.

Behind the heated rhetoric, Trump’s strategy in the region looks somewhat similar to predecessor Barack Obama’s – albeit with the added unpredictability of a new president who has shown he’s willing to use force.

Can North Korea be trusted? Probably not, but they haven’t done much actual attacking since the Korean war sort of ended seventy years ago.

Can the US be trusted?

The Gulf of Tonkin incident…

…drew the United States more directly into the Vietnam War. It involved two separate confrontations involving North Vietnam and the United States in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. The original American report blamed North Vietnam for both incidents, but eventually became very controversial with widespread claims that either one or both incidents were false, and possibly deliberately so.

In the 2003 documentary The Fog of War, the former United States Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara admitted that the August 2 USS Maddox attack happened with no Defense Department response, but the August 4 Gulf of Tonkin attack never happened.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_of_Tonkin_incident

The Bay of Pigs Invasion…

…was a failed military invasion of Cuba undertaken by the CIA-sponsored paramilitary group Brigade 2506 on 17 April 1961. A counter-revolutionary military (made up of Cuban exiles who traveled to the United States after Castro’s takeover), trained and funded by the United States government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Brigade 2506 fronted the armed wing of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (DRF) and intended to overthrow the increasingly communist government of Fidel Castro. Launched from Guatemala and Nicaragua, the invading force was defeated within three days by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, under the direct command of Prime Minister Fidel Castro.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_of_Pigs_Invasion

President Kennedy took the US back from the brink of a nuclear war with Russia.

NY Times: Carrier Wasn’t Sailing to Deter North Korea, as U.S. Suggested

Just over a week ago, the White House declared that ordering an American aircraft carrier into the Sea of Japan would send a powerful deterrent signal to North Korea and give President Trump more options in responding to the North’s provocative behavior. “We’re sending an armada,” Mr. Trump said to Fox News last Tuesday afternoon.

The problem was that the carrier, the Carl Vinson, and the three other warships in its strike force were that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.

White House officials said Tuesday that they had been relying on guidance from the Defense Department. Officials there described a glitch-ridden sequence of events, from an ill-timed announcement of the deployment by the military’s Pacific Command to a partially erroneous explanation by the defense secretary, Jim Mattis — all of which perpetuated the false narrative that a flotilla was racing toward the waters off North Korea.

By the time the White House was asked about the Carl Vinson, its imminent arrival had been emblazoned on front pages across East Asia, fanning fears that Mr. Trump was considering a pre-emptive military strike.

Can the White House and the Defence Department be trusted to get things right?

 

 

North Korea is not unpredictable?

Political and foreign correspondent Stan Grant writes that claims that North Korea is unpredictable are wrong.

RNZ: Kim probable: Why North Korea is not unpredictable

I have lost count of how many times this week I have heard or read analysts – and indeed government ministers – describe North Korea as “unpredictable”. It is a cliche, it is simplistic and it is wrong.

Nearly two decades of covering the goings-on inside the ‘hermit kingdom’ – both outside and inside the country – has taught me that the Kim regime is dangerous, brutal and petulant but if anything, predictable.

Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions reach back to the 1960s, but accelerated in the ’80s. It has conducted at least five nuclear tests, the most recent just last year, raising speculation – widely discounted – that North Korea has developed a hydrogen bomb, much more powerful than conventional atomic bombs.

According to various estimates, it has a stockpile of at least 10 and perhaps as many as 20 nuclear weapons. What it needs is the capacity to deliver them. It is working on that, developing missiles that could reach Australia or the continental United States.

Many will see that as dangerous. But so far in the nuclear age no country has used nuclear weapons to launch a new attack on another country.

None of that is unpredictable. It is calculated and it is aimed at one thing – regime survival.

Victor Cha, long-time North Korea watcher, American academic and author of The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, once revealed that in nuclear negotiations with the United States and other parties in 2005, a Pyongyang envoy candidly said:

“The reason you attacked Afghanistan is because they don’t have nukes. And look at what happened to Libya. That is why we will never give up ours.”

This was a telling glimpse into the mind of a country that believes it is under siege.

North Korea isn’t the only country to arm themselves with nuclear weapons to try to protect themselves from attack.

Who is most likely to attack North Korea?

North Korea is ringed by American fire-power. There are as many as 30,000 US troops over the border in South Korea and just this week Washington has ordered its warships into the Korean coast.

North Korea and the US are still technically at war more than 60 years after the armistice. There has never been a peace treaty.

And the US under President Trump has increased it’s threatening language, going as far as saying they are considering a ‘-pre-emptive’ attack on North Korea.

I wouldn’t trust North Korea – especially when put under this much pressure.

But if a nuclear bomb goes off it won’t be just one country that is responsible.

Who is the most unpredictable, Kim or Trump?