Merkley: Trump doesn't have clear plan for N Korea


While administration officials typically travel to the Capitol building to brief lawmakers on national security issues, on Wednesday the entire Senate will hop on a bus to the White House where four top officials will meet with them simultaneously. Democratic Senator Chris Coons called the briefing "sobering" and "an important opportunity for the entire Senate to hear the emerging plans of the Trump administration to confront what is a very real threat to our security".

Alannah Hill has more.

Hours before Wednesday's briefings, the top US commander in the Pacific, Admiral Harry Harris, testified in Congress that the United States may need to strengthen its missile defenses given the North Korean threat.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) are driven past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and other high ranking officials during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of the country's founding father Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang, April 15, 2017. In Berlin, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Wednesday that North Korea must suspend its nuclear activities, but "on the other side, the large-scale military maneuvers in Korean waters should be halted". The U.S. 7th Fleet said two American destroyers were conducting simultaneous maritime exercises with naval ships from South Korea and Japan.

Merkley: Trump doesn't have clear plan for N Korea

While the administration said military strikes remained an option, the return to sanctions given the risks of massive North Korean retaliation basically represents a continuation of the policy of former President Barack Obama's administration, which failed to slow Pyongyang down. He said the United States had "a lot of preemptive options", but declined to provide specifics.

According to the Senior Administration official, North Korea poses a serious threat to the US.

"North Korea will never stop their ambitions to deliver a nuclear weapon to U.S. until the cost of doing so is greater than the benefit". In reality, its radar capacity is created to probe deep into China and the system's underlying goal is to block any attempt by North Korea or China to respond to a United States first-strike nuclear attack. But will the commander in chief of our military show? It said that Seoul and Washington have been pushing to get THAAD quickly working to cope with North Korea's advancing nuclear and missile threats.

Officials said that after hearing of McConnell's request, the president suggested nonchalantly that the senators should come to the White House because he's a "gracious host".

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USA media was flooded with North Korea-related reports in the run-up to the April 15 anniversary of the birth of the North's late founding leader, Kim Il-sung, grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un, amid concern Pyongyang could detonate a nuclear device to mark the holiday.

Just hours before the rare briefing, the top USA commander in the Pacific, Admiral Harry Harris, testified in Congress that Washington may need to strengthen its missile defences, particularly in Hawaii, given Pyongyang's threat.

In reality, yesterday's developments demonstrate an escalating confrontation, driven by Washington's determination to assert unchallenged hegemony over the Asia-Pacific region, at China's expense.

Harris conceded North Korean retaliation to any U.S. strikes could cause many casualties, but added there was the risk "of a lot more Koreans and Japanese and Americans dying if North Korea achieves its nuclear aims and does what (North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) has said it's going to do".

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U.S. forces have begun deploying an anti-missile system in South Korea that has triggered anger from China.

"It's not clear at all at this point... how the United States will respond... if North Korea tests a nuclear weapon, an underground test, or if they proceed to launch a ballistic missile", Merkley said. It made no specific mention of military options, though it said the US would defend itself and friends.

"Now, it should be understood that pressure alone by the USA and China will only keep NK in a box for a short period of time".

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the THAAD system's deployment would "disrupt the regional strategic balance and further aggravate the tension on the peninsula". China will take "necessary measures to defend our own interests", he promised.

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China is North Korea's sole major ally and is seen as crucial to US -led efforts to rein in its bellicose, isolated neighbour. He has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile.