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US-South Korea military drills – an unnecessary provocation?

Amid serious tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the US and South Korea have begun their joint military exercises. For Pyongyang, the drills are a prelude to invading North Korea. Fabian Kretschmer reports from Seoul. On Monday, South Korea and the US began their much-anticipated joint military exercises. The maneuvers, named theUlchi Freedom Guardian, largely consist of computer simulations inside a bunker facility located south of Seoul. According to the South Korean newspaper Joongang Ilbo, the following scenario, among others, is being tested during the exercise: In a potential military operation, how to carry out a preventive strike against the North Korean leadership. As expected, Pyongyang responded harshly to the drills. The Sunday edition of the Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the US-South Korea military exercises were a step towards nuclear war, and that they were similar to pouring "gasoline on fire." For the regime led by Kim Jong Un, the "defense exercises" are a preparation for invasion. History tells us that North Korea reacts harshly to US-South Korean exercises. Last year in August, after joint maneuvers, the North Korean military launched a missile from a submarine. A little later, the communist country conducted its fifth nuclear test. - Eyeing North Korea, US and Japan to boost military ties - Where did North Korea get its missile technology? Tense times The 11-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian drill involves 50,000 South Korean and 17,500 US troops. The question remains whether the US will deploy long-range nuclear bombers or atomic submarines to the Korean Peninsula during the drills. The military exercises always take place at the end of August, therefore they could be seen as a routine affair. But this time around the situation on the Korean Peninsula is extremely tense. In July, North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), after which US President Donald Trump threatened the North with dire consequences. Kim's threat to attack the US Pacific island of Guam further escalated the situation. But Daniel Pinkston, a military expert who teaches at Troy University in Seoul, says the US-South Korea drills will not push the region to a war. On the contrary, Pinkston believes the more prepared US and South Korean troops are the lower will be the threat from North Korea. "Most US troops in South Korea are stationed for only one year. It requires regular exercises to study the communication processes," he told DW. De-escalation calls In recent times, however, calls have been growing for the US and South Korea to suspend their military drills. In exchange for their suspension, China has suggested that North Korea should freeze its nuclear program. Pyongyang has already indicated its willingness to implement such a deal. Read: What is China's role in the North Korean crisis? Even a high-ranking US official has for the first time expressed views in favor of at least reducing the scale and scope of the military drills. According to Edward Markey, a Democrat Senator from Massachusetts, it was President Trump who provoked North Korea through his aggressive rhetoric. Now Trump should refrain from using war rhetoric while US troops conduct exercises with their South Korean counterparts, Markey added. German-Korean filmmaker, Cho Sung-hyun, also points to what she considers a double standard. "If the US engages in drills simulating an invasion of North Korea, it is not considered a provocation, but if North Korea reacts with missile tests and verbal attacks, it is deemed a threat to the whole world," Cho told DW.

Amid serious tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the US and South Korea have begun their joint military exercises. For Pyongyang, the drills are a prelude to invading North Korea. Fabian Kretschmer reports from Seoul. On Monday, South Korea and the US began their much-anticipated joint military exercises. The maneuvers, named theUlchi Freedom Guardian, largely consist of computer simulations inside a ... Read More »

Trump nominates Christopher Wray as new FBI head

Donald Trump has announced that he will nominate former Justice Department official Christopher Wray to head the FBI. The announcement comes a day before former FBI Director James Comey is to testify to the Senate. US President Donald Trump announced on Twitter early Wednesday that he has selected former assistant attorney general Christopher Wray to lead the FBI, nearly a month after he controversially sacked former FBI Director James Comey. Wray, now a partner at the law firm King & Spalding, was assistant attorney general between 2003 to 2005 during George W. Bush's tenure. At that time he dealt with white collar crime and financial fraud, including leading the government task force investigation into energy giant Enron, according to the King & Spalding website. While at King & Spalding, he represented Republican New Jersey Governor and former Trump campaign adviser Chris Christie in the "Bridgegate" scandal. Christie was never charged, but two of his aides were convicted of plotting to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge to retaliate against a Democratic mayor who had refused to endorse Christie. The announcement comes a day before James Comey is scheduled to testify before the Senate intelligence committee about allegations of Russian meddling in the US election and ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Comey is also expected to provide new details about the weeks leading up to his sacking on May 9. This includes allegations Trump asked the FBI director to drop an investigation into ties between Russia and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who was fired for misleading the White House about conversations he had with Russia's ambassador in Washington. The Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the federal investigation following Comey's firing. Wray's appointment will require confirmation at a special Senate hearing.

Donald Trump has announced that he will nominate former Justice Department official Christopher Wray to head the FBI. The announcement comes a day before former FBI Director James Comey is to testify to the Senate. US President Donald Trump announced on Twitter early Wednesday that he has selected former assistant attorney general Christopher Wray to lead the FBI, nearly a ... Read More »

US envoy: President Trump ‘believes the climate is changing’

Donald Trump believes the climate is changing and that man-made activities are partly to blame, US envoy Nikki Haley says. Trump, who this week quit the Paris climate deal, previously called global warming a "hoax." "[US President Donald Trump] believes the climate is changing and he believes pollutants are part of the equation," US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told CNN on Saturday. Trump "knows that it's changing and that the US has to be responsible for it and that's what we're going to do." Haley's comments come two days after Trump announced he would pull the US out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, a landmark deal that aims to curb fossil fuels and mitigate global warming. Trump said the pact would put the US at a disadvantage, take away domestic jobs and undermine the American economy. "Just because the US got out of a club doesn't mean we aren't going to care about the environment," Haley said in the interview, which will be broadcast in full on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. The ambassador also echoed Trump's statements about the pact, saying it had strict and "onorous" regulations that were "disadvantaging our companies." Tight-lipped on climate Trump's decision to withdraw from the climate accord - signed by every country bar Syria and Nicaragua - sparked outrage around the world. Several countries have since renewed their support for the deal, vowing to stick to their commitments to limit carbon emissions. Officials at the White House on Friday skirted questions about whether the president believed in climate change. During last year's election campaign, Trump the candidate sometimes referred to it as a "hoax" created by China. After launching his bid for the White House in 2015, Trump said "I'm not a believer in man-made global warming." But since entering office, Trump and his staff have mostly kept quiet on the issue. Trump himself ignored a question about climate change when asked by journalists on Friday. White House press secretary Sean Spicer also refused to answer repeated questions on the subject, saying he hadn't had a chance to dicuss it with his boss. Adviser Kellyanne Conway said the question should be put to Trump himself.

Donald Trump believes the climate is changing and that man-made activities are partly to blame, US envoy Nikki Haley says. Trump, who this week quit the Paris climate deal, previously called global warming a “hoax.” “[US President Donald Trump] believes the climate is changing and he believes pollutants are part of the equation,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki ... Read More »

Trump in Israel: the peace process, the embassy question and a self-inflicted wound

During his campaign Donald Trump made bold promises related to Israel that he must face on his first official visit to the country. But he also has to deal with an unexpected issue of his own making. For someone who thinks of himself as an adroit dealmaker, the Middle East in general and Israel in particular, provides some of the most difficult ties to unknot in global affairs. That's why it was not surprising that Donald Trump, author of the Art of the Deal and in his own estimation a skilled negotiator, jumped on the chance to insert himself into the minefield that is Middle Eastern politics. So ahead of Trump's first presidential visit to Israel here's a look at two promises he made regarding Israel and the Middle East that he will now have to confront as well as a third unplanned topic, he will also have to deal with. Trump's reported disclosure of secret intelligence The reported divulging of classified information originating from Israel by President Trump in the White House during a high-profile visit by the Russian Foreign Minister and Moscow's US ambassador is unlikely to be on the official itinerary when Trump meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Yet it would be unusual if this incident, which is extremely sensitive for both sides, would not somehow be broached during the presidential visit. "I believe that the last affair regarding intelligence materials that were disclosed to third parties is going to affect the relationship a little bit because this is beyond the regular relationship of the two relationship communities and infringes the tradition in that field”, said Gilead Sher, who served as chief of staff for former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. That is why due to the sensitive nature of the issue it will "probably be discussed and cleared not in front of the cameras and not as part of the official visit, but behind closed doors between the leaders and I believe that it will be resolved eventually in a way that would be satisfactory to both parties," said Sher. The US embassy question Trump, during his campaign, repeatedly promised to relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Israel considers its capital. Palestinians who also claim the city as a future capital of a Palestinian state oppose this, as do Jordan and other Arab states. Since 1995, all American presidents have chosen to walk the same fine line on the issue after Congress passed a directive calling on the US to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move its embassy there. They have signed waivers delaying the relocation every six months for national security reasons. And it looks like Trump will now join his predecessors and do the same. "Most people think that the campaign promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has at a minimum been put on the back burner for now," said Michele Dunne, director of the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "So that is unlikely to happen. But he could still say or do things that somehow recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital." The Israeli-Palestinian peace process While Trump is expected to backtrack on his campaign vow to relocate the US embassy, he is not expected to shelve what was arguably his most audacious promise: to reach a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. To the contrary, Trump earlier this month - during a White House meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas - appeared to double down on his pledge when he said in reference to a peace deal: "We will get done." "Trump wants to announce or preside over the recommencement of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians," said Josh Saidoff, fellow at the Center for Middle East Development at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) via email. Since his remarks during the Abbas visit and especially since it was announced that Trump would visit Israel during his first international trip as president less than four months after taking office - his predecessors Obama and Bush both visited Israel during their second term - there has been speculation about whether the president would use his Israel trip to officially re-launch the stalled US initiative to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. "From an Israeli perspective, if I see a process with a hands-on American presidential involvement starting at the end of this visit, I would say this would mark a success for all parties concerned," said Gilead Sher, who served as chief Israeli negotiator at the Camp David summit and the Taba peace talks with the Palestinians. But Sher qualified that he would only regard a new US peace effort as serious if it went beyond a mere one-time meeting. Asked whether he believes Trump is aware of the challenges of brokering a peace deal and capable to overcome them, Sher said he sincerely hopes so. "I think that President Trump is well positioned to facilitate a US-led effort towards that aim once the two state for two people solution is articulated in a way that is binding and continuous." Carnegie's Middle East expert Michele Dunne is more skeptical: "There is no indication at this point that there is any kind of well-formed strategy or approach to the Middle East peace process. They are still in exploration mode."

During his campaign Donald Trump made bold promises related to Israel that he must face on his first official visit to the country. But he also has to deal with an unexpected issue of his own making. For someone who thinks of himself as an adroit dealmaker, the Middle East in general and Israel in particular, provides some of the ... Read More »

Trump denies urging former FBI chief to drop Flynn inquiry

US President Donald Trump has denied reports that he asked ex-FBI Director James Comey to drop a probe into his former national security advisor's links with Russia. Trump has also complained of facing a "witch hunt." When asked during a press conference whether he had ever urged Comey to end the probe into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Trump swiftly interrupted the reporter, saying, "No, no." On Tuesday, US media reported that the former FBI chief had written a memo describing how Trump urged him to drop the probe into ties between Flynn and Russia. Trump allegedly told him during a White House meeting that "I hope you can let this go," referring to the investigation. Trump fired Comey as head of the FBI last week, saying the dismissal was driven by a loss of faith in the bureau chief on behalf of both himself and the public. The president said he thought the ousting would be greeted with bipartisan support. But the move has fuelled speculation that the president sought to deliberately stall the investigation Comey was leading. 'Witch hunt' Trump also used Thursday's joint press conference with visiting Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to decry the FBI's investigation into alleged collusion between his campaign and Russia, describing it as a "witch hunt" and denouncing it for "dividing the country." The president repeated his denial of involvement with Russia during Thursday's press conference, saying, "There's been no collusion between certainly myself - and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself - and the Russians. Zero." Trump had earlier released a statement saying he looked forward to the matter being concluded "quickly," following Wednesday's appointment of ex-FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead the federal investigation into Russia's alleged election meddling. US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly briefed senators on Mueller's appointment on Thursday, but refused to give a public statement. However, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters after the briefing that "everything he (Rosenstein) said was that you need to treat this investigation as if it may be a criminal investigation." Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal also told reporters that Mueller was conducting a criminal investigation, including into whether there was any obstruction of justice on behalf of Trump's campaign team. Read more: What you need to know about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign Trump to name new FBI chief Trump also announced Thursday that he was "very close" to naming Comey's successor as FBI director, with ex-Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman expected to fill the post. Lieberman ran as Al Gore's vice presidential nominee in 2000, before he left the Democratic Party and was re-elected to the Senate as an independent. The president gave few details on the announcement, commenting only that "the people in the FBI will be very, very thrilled" with his choice for the agency's new head. Trump's nominee must first be confirmed by the Senate before he or she can fill the post.

US President Donald Trump has denied reports that he asked ex-FBI Director James Comey to drop a probe into his former national security advisor’s links with Russia. Trump has also complained of facing a “witch hunt.” When asked during a press conference whether he had ever urged Comey to end the probe into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Trump ... Read More »

Trump to meet Russian Foreign Minister in Washington

US President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House later on Wednesday. As allegations of Trump's Russian links persist, the meeting will be carefully watched. A recently unveiled Russian plan to stabilize Syria after more than six years of civil war is the most urgent foreign policy topic on the agenda, according to The Associated Press. Both governments have said they want to end a civil war that has killed up to 400,000 people and allowed the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) to emerge as a global terror threat. The continued fighting between rebels and the Moscow-backed Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's military has complicated US efforts to defeat IS. A plan is a plan Lavrov arrives in the US capital after discussing an agreement with Iran and Turkey last week. The plan focuses on the creation of four de-escalation zones, which would not cover areas where the US-led coalition is fighting IS. Details still need to be finalized and the US response has been cautious, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis saying administration officials are still studying the concept and its various unanswered questions. Best of enemies? The meeting will be the highest-level contact between Trump and the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin since Trump took office on January 20. Lavrov hasn't visited Washington at all since 2013, a year before Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and two years before it intervened militarily in Syria to help Assad remain in power. Relations apparently deteriorated between the US and Russia after US air strikes hit a Syrian airfield in April in response to a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on Assad. The meeting could signal that the two governments have improved ties that Trump recently described as being at an "all-time low." Lavrov will meet earlier in the day with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, The Associated Press learned. Russian connection not going away The meeting will be hard to separate from the unfolding political drama in Washington. FBI and congressional investigations are looking into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and the Kremlin related to last year's presidential election. US intelligence agencies accuse Moscow of meddling to help Trump's chances of victory. On Tuesday Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, ousting the nation's top law enforcement official amid the FBI's investigation into Trump's ties with Russia. In January, Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, saying Flynn had misled senior administration officials about his pre-inauguration talks with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador in Washington. In a Senate hearing Monday, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said she had "bluntly warned" Trump's White House in January that Flynn "essentially could be blackmailed" by the Russians because he apparently had lied about his contacts with Kislyak. Trump has said he has no ties to Russia and isn't aware of any involvement by his aides in any Russian election interference. He calls the various investigations a "hoax" driven by Democrats.

US President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House later on Wednesday. As allegations of Trump’s Russian links persist, the meeting will be carefully watched. A recently unveiled Russian plan to stabilize Syria after more than six years of civil war is the most urgent foreign policy topic on the agenda, according ... Read More »

Trump fires FBI director Comey

US President Donald Trump has surprisingly fired FBI director James Comey, charged with investigating the Trump campaign's ties with Russia. The move has set off shock waves in Washington amid concerns of a cover up. "While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau," Trump said in a letter to Comey on Tuesday. The firing reportedly follows the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The White House released a memo by Rosenstein providing the administration's justification for firing Comey: "I cannot defend the Director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken," Rosenstein wrote. - Shock, criticism, comedy greet Trump's firing of Comey - Russia has 'compromising info' on Trump - Comey defends pre-election Clinton email decision It is necessary to restore "public trust and confidence" in the US's top law enforcement agency following several tumultuous months, a White House statement reads. "The FBI is one of our nation's most cherished and respected institutions, and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement," it goes on. The White House said the search for a new FBI director would begin immediately. Comey, 56, was nominated by President Barack Obama for the FBI post in 2013 to a 10-year term. Comey has spent three decades in law enforcement. It is only the second time in the nation's history that a president has fired the head of the FBI. The first time occurred in 1993, when then-President Bill Clinton dismissed William Sessions over alleged ethical lapses. Comey embarrassed over Clinton probe Comey testified last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee in defense of his handling of a probe into the hacked emails of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during last year's presidential election. Tuesday's announcement follows the FBI correcting a sentence in Comey's sworn testimony on Capitol Hill last week. Comey told lawmakers that Huma Abedin, a senior aide to Hillary Clinton, had sent "hundreds and thousands" of emails to her husband's laptop, including some with classified information. Earlier on Tuesday, the FBI said in a two-page letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that only a small number of the emails found on the laptop had been forwarded there while most had simply been backed up from electronic devices. Most of the email chains on the laptop containing classified information were not the result of forwarding, the FBI said. "Nauseous" Last Wednesday Comey defended his decision to reopen a probe into Hillary Clinton's emails only days before the November election, but said it made him feel "nauseous" to think it could have swayed the outcome of the vote. Comey informed Congress 11 days before the November election that the FBI had reopened an investigation into Clinton's use of a private server during her time as secretary of state only months after the country's top law enforcement body had closed the case and recommended no criminal charges. Comey also broke with tradition by discussing the case and chastising the Clinton's "careless" handling of classified information. Democrats have charged that Comey's decision to reopen the probe may have been politically motivated and helped swing the election in Trump's favor. Comey had told the Senate committee that the FBI reopened the probe after agents discovered additional classified emails forwarded by Clinton aide Huma Abedin to her husband, who was not authorized to view them. Comey said he felt he had to inform Congress at the time, after which news of the reopened probe was leaked to the press, because he had previously testified under oath that the investigation had been closed. Clinton and Trump blame Comey In one of her first major remarks since the election, Clinton said on Tuesday that Comey's actions, misogyny, Russian interference and a Wikileaks dump of Democratic Party communications emails were in part responsible for her defeat in the election. Last Tuesday Trump attacked Clinton via Twitter, saying "Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds" and “The phony Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?"

US President Donald Trump has surprisingly fired FBI director James Comey, charged with investigating the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia. The move has set off shock waves in Washington amid concerns of a cover up. “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the ... Read More »

How North Korea hype helped South Korea’s pro-peace Moon

South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, cannot rely on his resounding election victory for long. Analyst Sven Schwersensky tells DW that Moon has to deliver on difficult issues, both domestically and regionally. DW: It wasn't a surprise that Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party won the South Korean presidential election, but the margin with which he defeated other candidates was quite big. Did you expect the outcome? Sven Schwersensky: The final result was pretty much what the polls had predicted, but what came as a surprise was that the second in race from former President Park Geun-hye's party, Hong Joon Pyo, lost by a significant margin. This was not expected by many in South Korea. One noticeable thing in the election was that about 30 percent of voters cast a blank ballot. This, in my opinion, was a protest by a large number of conservative voters who showed their mistrust to all presidential candidates. It also shows that Moon now has a very important task to perform, most importantly to work for social cohesion to overcome deep divisions and polarization in the country. This is going to be a huge but essential task. An important step in this regard will be constitutional reforms, which Moon said he would strive for and make a preliminary decision on it next year. South Korea is facing a number of crises. The unemployment is growing, the income gap is expanding, corruption is on the rise, and then there is a worsening conflict with North Korea. How can Moon deal with so many issues? Unlike his predecessors, Moon was sworn in immediately after the polls. He has already taken some steps to address the issues. He has ordered the setting up of a job creation committee. Moon promised during his election campaign that he would create 170,000 new jobs in the public sector alone and a total of more than 800,000 jobs over the five years of his presidential term. How difficult will it be for the new president to regain public confidence in the government? Moon needs to establish a different form of political communication, both with parliament and the people. After his victory, he held meetings with the leaders of all political parties represented in parliament and offered them his cooperation. These were short meetings but they show that the new president wants to work together with everyone. Moon says he wants to start a dialogue with North Korea, building on the approach of his mentor and former President Roh. He also said he was willing to visit Pyongyang under favorable conditions. How do you expect Moon to deal with the crisis unfolding on the Korean Peninsula? With the appointments of the secretary of the union and the prime minister, Moon has signaled that he wants to proceed very quickly on his election promises regarding North Korea. At the same time, however, Moon has made it clear that he is aware of the fact that the stringent international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang are necessary. I think the new South Korean president would like to resume talks on the reopening of Kaesong and, perhaps he will initiate other joint economic projects with the North. It will be beneficial for South Korea's economy. To what extent has the conflict with North Korea affected the election result? It is always the case that the conservative camp plays up the fear of a possible North Korean attack and the liberal bloc advocates peace and tries to convince the people that the conflict with Pyongyang cannot be resolved through military means. This time too, the same question dominated the election campaign. Moon, however, has apparently benefited from the North Korea issue, because the conservatives, as well as the United States, overstated the topic. In his election campaign, Moon hinted that he wanted South Korea to rely less on the United States. What will it mean for the US-South Korea relations and, significantly for the future of the US' deployment of the THAAD missile defense system? I think Moon would want a more self-assertive role for South Korea in its dealing with the US. The missile defense system was an important topic in the last phase of the election campaign when US President Donald Trump and his security adviser pointed that Seoul must fund THAAD completely or at least jointly, like other security measures. The Moon administration will also focus on improving ties with China. Nevertheless, whether it will get South Korea any concessions on the missile defense system is unclear. Sven Schwersensky is the country representative for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Seoul. The interview was conducted by Esther Felden.

South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, cannot rely on his resounding election victory for long. Analyst Sven Schwersensky tells DW that Moon has to deliver on difficult issues, both domestically and regionally. DW: It wasn’t a surprise that Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party won the South Korean presidential election, but the margin with which he defeated other candidates was ... Read More »

North Korea hints new nuclear test could happen ‘at any time’

North Korea has suggested that it will continue its nuclear weapons tests in response to what it calls US aggression. Japan has also sent out a destroyer to escort US warships as Tokyo seeks to boost its military role. Pyongyang warned on Monday that it would conduct a nuclear test at any time determined by its leadership, in the latest comments to fuel already heightened tensions in the region. Both North Korea and Washington have been trading off shows of force over the past few weeks. There are signs that North Korea might be preparing either its sixth nuclear test or a long-range missile launch, while the White House refuses to rule out military action in response. A spokesman for the North's Foreign Ministry said the government was "fully ready to respond to any option taken by the US," in a statement carried by the state-run KCNA news agency. North Korea's "measures for bolstering the nuclear force to the maximum will be taken in a consecutive and successive way at any moment and any place decided by its supreme leadership," the spokesman said, apparently referring to a new nuclear test. 'We'll see' US President Donald Trump has said a "major, major conflict" with North Korea and its leader Kim Jong Un is possible over its nuclear and ballistic programs. Last week, China warned that the situation on the Korean peninsula could escalate or slip out of control. South Korea also regularly warns that the North can carry out a test whenever it chooses to do so. In an interview with CBS television network's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Trump said that if North Korea carried out another nuclear test, "I would not be happy." When asked if "not happy" meant "military action," Trump replied: "I don't know. I mean, we'll see." Japan dispatches destroyer North Korea raises the tone of its weapons test warnings every spring when the United States and South Korea carry out joint military exercises that the North views as invasion rehearsals. This year, however, fears of conflict have been fueled by a back-and-forth of threats from the Trump administration and Pyongyang. Japan dispatched a helicopter carrier, Izumo, from a port south of Tokyo on Monday, which was to join a US supply vessel off Chiba prefecture, according to media reports. It is the first operation of its kind since Japan passed controversial legislation allowing the military to have a greater role overseas. Japanese officials said the US ship is expected to refuel other American warships in the region, including the USS Carl Vinson - a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier sent by the US as a show of force.

North Korea has suggested that it will continue its nuclear weapons tests in response to what it calls US aggression. Japan has also sent out a destroyer to escort US warships as Tokyo seeks to boost its military role. Pyongyang warned on Monday that it would conduct a nuclear test at any time determined by its leadership, in the latest ... Read More »

Pence visits DMZ border zone day after North Korea missile test

The US vice president has made a trip to an American base in South Korea close to the heavily fortified border with North Korea. He said the US "era of strategic patience" with Pyongyang was over. US Vice President Mike Pence continued his 10-day trip to Pacific nations Monday by visiting an American military base in South Korea just a few hundred meters south of the tense border with North Korea (DMZ). This is Pence's first trip to the Korean Peninsula since assuming office in January. Pence said it was "particularly humbling" to be at Camp Bonifas, a US-led UN command post, mentioning his father's military service during the Korean War. Pence emphasized the relationship between the US and South Korea. "The alliance between the United States Forces Korea and the forces of the Republic of Korea is historic," said Pence. "It is a testament to the unshakable bond between our people." "All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country," Pence remarked. In regard to North Korea, Pence said: "There was a period of strategic patience but the era of strategic patience is over." Pence's visit comes amid high tension between the US and North Korea. Pence called North Korea's failed ballistic missile test a "provocation" before gathered US military personnel. The missile test occurred following a parade that celebrated the 105th birthday of the late first Korean President Kim Il Sung. "This morning's provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world," said Pence. Pence is scheduled to visit the gateway to the DMZ and acting South Korean President Hwang Kyo-ahn on Monday. After South Korea, Pence is scheduled to travel to Japan, Indonesia and Australia during his 10-day trip. Trump, US allies on North Korea North Korea has launched short- and mid-range missiles in recent months. The country has also conducted five nuclear tests, including two in the previous year. North Korea's conducting nuclear tests is in defiance of UN resolutions on the country. US President Donald Trump has previously stated that if allies surrounding North Korea do not act to end North Korea's military program, the US will do it alone. China, North Korea's northern neighbor and sole political ally, previously spoke out against the missile tests. China banned the import of North Korean coal, Pyongyang's most important export, on February 26. Trump's national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, said China recognizes the severity of the situation, telling US media outlet ABC on Sunday "this situation just can't continue." Shinzo Abe, prime minister of fellow US ally Japan, demanded North Korea comply with UN resolutions and abandon developing nuclear missiles. "Japan will closely cooperate with the US and South Korea over North Korea and will call for China to take a bigger role," Abe told parliament.

The US vice president has made a trip to an American base in South Korea close to the heavily fortified border with North Korea. He said the US “era of strategic patience” with Pyongyang was over. US Vice President Mike Pence continued his 10-day trip to Pacific nations Monday by visiting an American military base in South Korea just a ... Read More »

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