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Rex Tillerson Says US Could Resort To Military Strike Against North Korea
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Friday that “all options” are being considered to counter North Korea’s emerging nuclear threat, including a militarily strike if necessary to safeguard allies and tens of thousands of U.S. troops stationed in the region.
The threat of a full-scale U.S. military attack comes after a series of North Korean ballistic missile tests in recent weeks have heightened tensions across northeast Asia and raised the possibility of a conflict with an adversary that now possesses nuclear arms and appears close to being able to strike U.S. territory.
The tough talk appears to be a break from previous U.S. administrations, which emphasized diplomacy, economic sanctions and covert operations, including cyberattacks, to try to reduce the danger from one of the world’s most isolated, and unpredictable, dictatorships.
“Certainly we do not want for things to get to a military conflict,” Tillerson told reporters in Seoul on the second leg of his three-nation visit to Asia, his first to the region since taking office.
“We’ve been quite clear on that in our communications. But obviously if North Korea takes actions that threaten the South Korean forces or our own forces, then that will be met with an appropriate response,” he added.
“Let me very clear: The policy of strategic patience has ended,” he said, referring to the Obama administration’s policy of trying to wait out the North Korean regime while pressing it with economic sanctions and covert actions.
He emphasized the need for maintaining economic sanctions on Pyongyang but also made clear that the Trump administration would not be limited to that approach.
“We’re exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures. All options are on the table,” he said.
He also appeared to reject the idea of trying to negotiate a freeze in North Korea’s weapons program, a policy that the Clinton administration tried in the mid-1990s by supplying oil and other aid to Pyongyang in an effort to block its nuclear development.
The deal eventually broke down and North Korea has built a sizable nuclear stockpile. Its most recent nuclear test, last September, was said to produce a yield larger than the nuclear bomb that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
“At this stage, I’m not sure we would be willing to freeze with the circumstances where they exist today, given that would leave North Korea with significant capabilities that would represent a true threat not just to the region but to American forces as well,” Tillerson said.
In a sign of the growing friction, the North Korean Embassy in Beijing invited reporters in for a rare news conference to blame the United States for risking a nuclear war. The officials also vowed to continue Pyongyang’s fast-developing nuclear testing program.
For his part, President Donald Trump declared on Twitter that North Korea was “behaving very badly” and dismissed Chinese efforts to engage Washington and Pyongyang in talks aimed at easing tensions.
Tillerson’s remarks, standing beside his South Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, came a day after he declared in Tokyo that two decades of U.S. attempts to block North Korea from developing nuclear weapons had failed and that a “different approach” was required.
Earlier in the day, Tillerson toured the Demilitarized Zone, a heavily guarded buffer of border land between North and South Korea intended to diffuse tensions after the 1953 armistice that halted fighting during the Korean War. The two nations have never signed a formal peace accord.
A group of North Koreans, apparently tourists, waved at reporters from across the border during Tillerson’s visit. A helmeted North Korean soldier, just yards away across the border, took pictures of Tillerson’s back as he posed with U.S. commanders.
Tillerson ate lunch with U.S. troops there and signed a brick with chalk, a tradition for dignitaries who visit the site.
Tillerson’s tour of the region comes as the U.S. military is participating in a two-month exercise with South Korean and Japanese forces, an annual exercise that North Korea routinely denounces as a prelude to war.
The Foal Eagle exercise involves fighter jets, submarines and ground forces involved in a range of complex drills. About 3,600 U.S. service members were deployed for the event, joining the 28,000 U.S. troops permanently based in South Korea.
Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Friday that the U.S. military has a number of plans in place in the event of hostile North Korean military action. He would not directly comment on the possibility of a preemptive U.S. attack.
“I’ll let Secretary Tillerson talk for U.S. policy,” Davis said. “Our job is to provide military options that give strength to foreign policy that he leads.”
Tillerson’s meeting in Seoul comes at a time of political upheaval in South Korea. Its president was removed from office last week amid a corruption scandal that threatens nearly a decade of conservative party rule. New elections are scheduled for May 9.
The leading candidate in the polls, Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party, says he wants to delay installation of a new U.S. anti-missile system, known as THAAD, which is intended to shoot down North Korean missiles.
(Staff writer Wilkerson reported from Washington and special correspondent Stiles from Seoul. Special correspondent Jessica Meyers in Beijing and staff writer W.J. Hennigan in Washington contributed to this report.)
©2017 Tribune Co. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will return three captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday and is moving them to a handover location agreed with Kiev, Crimea's border guard service was cited as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday.
A Reuters reporter in Crimea, which Russian annexed from Ukraine in 2014, earlier on Sunday saw coastguard boats pulling the three vessels through the Kerch Strait toward the Black Sea where they could potentially be handed over to Ukraine.
Nine years after losing both legs in Afghanistan, he's found purpose in family, friends and inspiring others
There's a joke that Joey Jones likes to use when he feels the need to ease the tension in a room or in his own head.
To calm himself down, he uses it to remind himself of the obstacles he's had to overcome. When he faces challenges today — big or small — it brings him back to a time when the stakes were higher.
Jones will feel out a room before using the line. For nearly a decade, Jones, 33, has told his story to thousands of people, given motivational speeches to NFL teams and acted alongside a three-time Academy Award-winning actor.
On Tuesday afternoon, he stood at the front of a classroom at his alma mater, Southeast Whitfield High School in Georgia. The room was crowded with about 30 honor students.
It took about 20 minutes, but Jones started to get more comfortable as the room warmed up to him. A student asked about how he deals with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I believe in post-traumatic growth," Jones said. "That means you go through tough and difficult situations and on the back end through recovery, you learn strength."
It didn't take long for a central theme to emerge at the funeral of U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Livermore, an event attended by hundreds of area residents Friday at Union Cemetery in Bakersfield.
It's a theme that stems from a widespread local belief that the men and women who have served in the nation's armed forces are held in particularly high esteem here in the southern valley.
"In Bakersfield and Kern County, we celebrate our veterans like no place else on Earth," Bakersfield Chief of Police Lyle Martin told the gathering of mourners.
ROCKFORD — Delta Force sniper Sgt. First Class James P. McMahon's face was so badly battered and cut, "he looked like he was wearing a fright mask" as he stood atop a downed Black Hawk helicopter and pulled free the body of a fellow soldier from the wreckage.
That's the first description of McMahon in the book by journalist Mark Bowden called "Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War." It is a detailed account of the horrific Battle of the Black Sea fought in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. It claimed the lives of 18 elite American soldiers.