North Korea

Pence and North Koreans Were Set for Secret Meeting

Vice President Pence “departed for a five-day, two country swing through Asia earlier this month having agreed to a secret meeting with North Korean officials while in South Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games,” the Washington Post reports.

“But on Saturday Feb. 10, less than two hours before Pence and his team were set to meet with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Nam, the regime’s nominal head of state, the North Koreans pulled out of the scheduled meeting, according to Pence’s office.”

Disagreement Derails Trump Choice for South Korea Post

“The White House’s original choice for U.S. ambassador to South Korea is no longer expected to be nominated after he privately expressed disagreement in late December with the Trump administration’s North Korea policy,” the Washington Post reports.

“Victor D. Cha, an academic who served in the George W. Bush administration, raised his concerns with National Security Council officials over their consideration of a limited strike on the North aimed at sending a message without sparking a wider war — a risky concept known as a ‘bloody nose’ strategy.”

North Korea Months Away from Being Able to Attack U.S.

CIA director Mike Pompeo told CBS News that North Korea is only “a handful of months” away from delivering an attack on the United States.

Said Pompeo: “We’ll never know the exact nature of what’s taking place…. The core risk is that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is continuing to expand, advance, become more powerful, more capable, more reliable.”

Trump Says Russia Helping North Korea Skirt Sanctions

President Trump said that Russia is helping North Korea get supplies in violation of international sanctions and that Pyongyang is getting “closer every day” to being able to deliver a long-range missile to the United States, Reuters reports.

Said Trump: “Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea. What China is helping us with, Russia is denting. In other words, Russia is making up for some of what China is doing.”

Quote of the Day

“I think that Mr. Kim Jong-un has obviously won this round. He has completed his strategic task: he has a nuclear weapon, he has missiles of global reach, up to 13,000 km, which can reach almost any point of the globe.”

— Russian president Vladimir Putin, quoted by Reuters, noting that Kim Jong-un was a “shrewd and mature politician.”

Trump Weighs Limited Strike on North Korea

“As one sign of how fraught the confrontation with North Korea remains despite the tentative onset of diplomatic activity, consider this: U.S. officials are debating whether it’s possible to mount a limited military strike against North Korean sites without igniting an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The idea is known as the ‘bloody nose’ strategy: React to some nuclear or missile test with a targeted strike against a North Korean facility to bloody Pyongyang’s nose and illustrate the high price the regime could pay for its behavior. The hope would be to make that point without inciting a full-bore reprisal by North Korea.”

“It’s an enormously risky idea, and there is a debate among Trump administration officials about whether it’s feasible. North Koreans have a vast array of artillery tubes pointed across the Demilitarized Zone at Seoul, the capital of South Korea, with which they could inflict thousands of casualties within minutes if they choose to unleash all-out barrage.”

Tillerson Slip Reveals Secret Planning on North Korea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “let slip last week a few tantalizing details about one of the nation’s most secret military contingency plans: how the United States would try to race inside North Korea to seize its nuclear weapons if it ever saw evidence that Kim Jong-un’s government was collapsing,” the Washington Post reports.

“For years, American diplomats have been trying to engage their Chinese counterparts in a discussion of this scenario… And for years the Chinese have resisted the conversation… The Chinese feared that if news of a conversation leaked, Beijing would be seen as conspiring with the United States over plans for an eventual North Korean collapse, eroding any leverage that Beijing still held over Mr. Kim.”

Graham Sees 30% Chance Trump Attacks North Korea

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told The Atlantic that there’s a 30% chance that President Trump initiates war against North Korea.

Said Graham: “I would say there’s a three in 10 chance we use the military option.”

He added that if the North Koreans conduct an additional test of a nuclear bomb — “I would say 70 percent.”

More from Graham: “War with North Korea is an all-out war against the regime. There is no surgical strike option. Their [nuclear-weapons] program is too redundant, it’s too hardened, and you gotta assume the worst, not the best. So if you ever use the military option, it’s not to just neutralize their nuclear facilities—you gotta be willing to take the regime completely down.”

North Korea Says Nuclear War Is Inevitable

“North Korea says a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula has become a matter of when, not if, as it continued to lash out at a massive joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea involving hundreds of advanced warplanes,” the AP reports.

“In comments attributed to an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman, North Korea also claimed high-ranked U.S. officials, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, have further confirmed American intent for war with a series of ‘bellicose remarks.'”

North Korea Says Trump Should Die

“North Korea gave its version of a diplomatic verdict Wednesday on President Trump’s recent trip to Asia: He’s a coward who deserves to die,” USA Today reports.

“Pyongyang’s state media slammed Trump for insulting North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un while on a five country tour of Asia. It said the American president, who Kim has feuded with for months, deserves the death penalty.”

Mattis Says Threat of Nuclear Attack Accelerating

“In remarks in Seoul with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo at his side, Mattis accused the North of illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear programs — and vowed to defeat any attack,” the AP reports.

“Mattis said North Korea engages in ‘outlaw’ behavior and that the U.S. will never accept a nuclear North. He added that regardless of what the North might try, it is overmatched by the firepower and cohesiveness of the decades-old U.S.-South Korean alliance.”

Diplomatic Efforts with North Korea Break Down

NBC News: “Diplomatic efforts between the United States and North Korea are in peril with Pyongyang shunning talks in response to President Trump’s increased public attacks on Kim Jong Un.”

“Joseph Yun, a top American diplomat to North Korea, has been warning of the breakdown in meetings on Capitol Hill and seeking help to persuade the administration to prioritize diplomacy over the heated rhetoric that appears to be pushing the two nuclear powers closer toward conflict.”