Trump says force against North Korea would be devastating
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Trump says force against North Korea would be devastating

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has said that military action against North Korea is not his administration’s preferred option in dealing with the rogue state’s nuclear weapons programme, however that if it came to that it would be “devastating.”

“We are totally prepared for the second option, not a preferred option,” Trump said at a White House news conference on Tuesday, referring to military force.

“But if we take that option, it will be devastating, I can tell you that, devastating for North Korea. That’s called the military option. If we have to take it, we will.”

SEE ALSO: North Korea appears to be preparing for war

Bellicose statements by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in recent weeks have created fears that a miscalculation could lead to action with untold ramifications, particularly since Pyongyang conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept 3.

“He’s acting very badly, he’s saying things that should never ever be said,” added Trump. “We’re replying to those things but it’s a reply. It’s not an original statement it’s a reply.”

Despite the increased tension, the United States has not detected any change in North Korea’s military posture reflecting an increased threat, the top US military officer said on Tuesday.

The assessment by Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, about Pyongyang’s military stance was in contrast to a South Korean lawmaker who said Pyongyang had boosted defences on its east coast.

“While the political space is clearly very charged right now, we haven’t seen a change in the posture of North Korean forces, and we watch that very closely,” Dunford told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his reappointment to his post.

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A North Korean long-range rocket is launched into the air at the Sohae rocket launch site, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo February 7, 2016. Source: Reuters/Kyodo

SEE ALSO: Trump’s tweet a declaration of war, says North Korea

In terms of a sense of urgency, “North Korea certainly poses the greatest threat today,” Dunford testified.

A US official speaking on the condition of anonymity said satellite imagery had detected a small number of North Korean military aircraft moving to the North’s east coast. The official said, however, the activity did not change their assessment of Pyongyang’s military posture.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on Monday accused Trump of declaring war on the North and threatened that Pyongyang would shoot down US warplanes flying near the Korean Peninsula after American bombers flew close to it last Saturday.

Ri was reacting to Trump’s Twitter comments that Kim and Ri “won’t be around much longer” if they acted on their threats toward the United States.

North Korea has been working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the US mainland, which Trump has said he will never allow. Dunford said Pyongyang will have a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile “soon,” and it was only a matter of a “very short time”.

“We clearly have postured our forces to respond in the event of a provocation or a conflict,” the general said, adding that the United States has taken “all proper measures to protect our allies” including South Korea and Japan.

“It would be an incredibly provocative thing for them to conduct a nuclear test in the Pacific as they have suggested, and I think the North Korean people would have to realise how serious that would be, not only for the United States but for the international community,” Dunford said.

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A view of U.S. military planes parked on the tarmac of Andersen Air Force base on the island of Guam, a U.S. Pacific Territory, August 15, 2017. Source: Reuters/Erik De Castro

SEE ALSO: Why is North Korea ‘begging for war’?

South Korean lawmaker Lee Cheol-uoo, briefed by the country’s spy agency, said North Korea was bolstering its defences by moving aircraft to its east coast and taking other measures after the flight by US bombers.

Lee said the United States appeared to have disclosed the flight route intentionally because North Korea seemed to be unaware.

US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers, escorted by fighter jets, flew east of North Korea in a show of force after the heated exchange of rhetoric between Trump and Kim.

The United States has imposed sanctions on 26 people as part of its non-proliferation designations for North Korea and nine banks, including some with ties to China, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control Sanctions said on Tuesday.

The US sanctions target people in North Korea and some North Korean nationals in China, Russia, Libya and Dubai, according to a list posted on the agency’s website.

‘Capability to deter’

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit China from Thursday to Saturday for talks with senior officials that will include the crisis over North Korea and trade, the State Department said on Tuesday.

Evans Revere, a former senior diplomat who met with a North Korean delegation in Switzerland this month, said that Pyongyang had been reaching out to “organisations and individuals” to encourage talks with former US officials to get a sense of the Trump administration’s thinking.

“They’ve also been accepting invitations to attend dialogues hosted by others, including the Swiss and the Russians,” he said.

Revere said his best guess for why the North Koreans were doing this was because they were “puzzled by the unconventional way that President Trump has been handling the North Korea issue” and were eager to use “informal and unofficial meetings to gain a better understanding of what is motivating Trump and his administration”.

SEE ALSO: North Korea’s nuclear programme aided by study abroad in China – report

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India’s Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman shakes hands with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis before their meeting in New Delhi, India September 26, 2017. Source: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

During a visit to India, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said diplomatic efforts continued.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said war on the Korean Peninsula would have no winner.

“We hope the US and North Korean politicians have sufficient political judgment to realise that resorting to military force will never be a viable way to resolve the peninsula issue and their own concerns,” Lu said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged Kim Jong Un to resume military talks and reunions of families split by the 1950-53 Korean War to ease tension.

he United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce and not a peace treaty.

Additional reporting from Reuters.