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- On Wednesday, 9 August, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis issued a statement warning North Korea to “stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” and that the country’s leaders should “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
- Mattis also emphasized that the US and its allies “have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend themselves from an attack” by North Korea, and that after taking office, one of President Trump’s “first orders to [Mattis] emphasized the readiness of [US] ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces.”
- Mattis concluded the statement by reiterating that any North Korean threat, nuclear or otherwise, would be “overmatched” by the US and its allies:
“While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth…
North Korea will continue to be grossly overmatched by the U.S. and its allies… and would lose any arms race or conflict it [North Korea] initiates.”
Trump, North Korea Trade Threats
- The day before Mattis’s warning to North Korea, President Trump told reporters during a briefing on the opioid crisis that “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States… They will be met with fire, fury, and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
- The president also tweeted that the US would be “tough and decisive” regarding North Korea.
After many years of failure,countries are coming together to finally address the dangers posed by North Korea. We must be tough & decisive!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 8, 2017
- Hours after Trump’s comments, North Korea said it was “examining the operational plan” to strike Guam, a US territory in the Pacific Ocean. North Korea said it was also considering a ballistic missile strike against Anderson Air Force Base — one of the closest American military bases to North Korea located on US soil.
- Wednesday morning, President Trump tweeted:
My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
…Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
- North Korea’s military responded Wednesday in a statement through state-run news agency KCNA:
“But the US president at a gold links again let out a load of nonsense about ‘fire and fury,’ failing to grasp the on-going grave situation. This is extremely getting on the nerves of the infuriated Hwasong artillerymen of the KPA… It seems that he has not yet understood the statement… Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him.”
- North Korea also announced its intention to finalize plans to fire missiles in the Korean Peninsula later this month.
“The military action the KPA is about to take will be an effective remedy for restraining the frantic moves of the US in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity…
The Strategic Force is also considering the plan for opening to public the historic enveloping fire at Guam, a practical action targeting the US bases of aggression. This unprecedented step is to give stronger confidence in certain victory and courage to the Korean people and help them witness the wretched plight of the US imperialists.
The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi Prefectures of Japan. They will fly 3 356.7 km for 1 065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40 km away from Guam. The KPA Strategic Force will finally complete the plan until mid August and report it to the commander-in-chief of the DPRK nuclear force and wait for his order.
We keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the US.”
- Mattis’ warning to North Korea came in response to growing tensions between Pyongyang and the member-states of the United Nations (UN) in light of the nation’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on 28 July, and threats to use nuclear force against the US and its allies.
- Tensions between US/US-allies and North Korea also increased Wednesday after state-run news agency KCNA reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s military was examining an “operational plan” to send a “serious warning signal to the US” by bombing areas surrounding Guam, a US territory.
- North Korean state-media reported that, according to an unnamed spokesperson for North Korea’s Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the Guam-strike strategy was “in response to the US’ test launch last Wednesday of the Minuteman-3 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base”––and due to the presence of “six B-1B Lancers at the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.”
- The report added that “Preemptive strike [against ballistic attacks] is no longer the monopoly of the US,” and that North Korea would “would burn up all US military assets in the [Korean Peninsula] area, including Seoul [South Korea],” a key regional US ally.
- Carl Schuster, Hawaii Pacific University professor and former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, told CNN Wednesday that Guam “is essentially a staging area, which sees rotations of bomber groups coming through,” and that it is the “western most US territory that has major military bases.”
- The same day Trump remarked to reporters about North Korean threats, Joby Warrick, Ellen Nakashima and Anna Fifield of the Washington Post reported that North Korea had “successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead… crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power,” citing a “confidential assessment” by “US intelligence officials.”
- The Post said that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the story.
- On Monday, 7 August, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a regional gathering of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in the Phillipines, in part to discuss the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
- Two days before, on Saturday, members of the UN’s Security Council voted 15-0 in approval of the most stringent economic sanctions package against North Korea to date.
- According to the press release, these sanctions came in response to “continued nuclear… development,” and ongoing “ballistic missile activity” by the North Korean regime over recent months.
- After passage of the Security Council resolution, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said:
“Today the full Security Council has come together to put the North Korean dictator on notice. And this time, the Council has matched its words and actions… Nuclear and ballistic missile development is expensive. The revenues the North Korean government receives are not going towards feeding its people…Instead, the North Korean regime is literally starving its people and enslaving them in mines and factories in order to fund these illegal nuclear programs… The North Korean threat has not left us. It is rapidly growing more dangerous.”
- Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief at the Daily Wire, tweeted:
Mattis spitting hot fire at DPRK means the military option is on the table. That’s not just Trump mouthing off. https://t.co/TqDzMhIkRI
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 9, 2017
- Rep. Ted Lieu (California) tweeted:
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) August 8, 2017
- David French, writer at the National Review, tweeted:
Given the developments re: North Korea these last few days, think of how petty and dangerous Bannon is to attack McMaster now.
— David French (@DavidAFrench) August 9, 2017
- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said:
“If North Korea wants to behave in a stupid way, then we need to be prepared with more than sanctions.”
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) August 9, 2017
- Sen. Ed Markey (Massachusetts) tweeted:
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) August 9, 2017
- Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) tweeted the following statement:
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) August 9, 2017
Christopher Putney contributed to this report.