North Korea

North Korea Rejects Diplomacy

A North Korean official reaffirmed Pyongyang’s commitment to developing a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching “all the way to the East coast of the mainland U.S.,” telling CNN that the rogue nation is currently not interested in diplomacy with the U.S. until it achieves that goal.

North Korea Is a Cyberpower Too

New York Times: “Their track record is mixed, but North Korea’s army of more than 6,000 hackers is undeniably persistent, and undeniably improving, according to American and British security officials who have traced these attacks and others back to the North. Amid all the attention on Pyongyang’s progress in developing a nuclear weapon capable of striking the continental United States, the North Koreans have also quietly developed a cyberprogram that is stealing hundreds of millions of dollars and proving capable of unleashing global havoc.”

“Unlike its weapons tests, which have led to international sanctions, the North’s cyberstrikes have faced almost no pushback or punishment, even as the regime is already using its hacking capabilities for actual attacks against its adversaries in the West. And just as Western analysts once scoffed at the potential of the North’s nuclear program, so did experts dismiss its cyberpotential — only to now acknowledge that hacking is an almost perfect weapon for a Pyongyang that is isolated and has little to lose.”

Five Days In North Korea

Nicholas Kristof just returned from North Korea:

On just the first day of a war between the United States and North Korea, according to a Stanford University assessment, one million people could be killed.

Yet after my five-day visit to North Korea with three New York Times colleagues, such a nuclear war seems terrifyingly imaginable. In the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, it was clear that President Trump’s threat to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea had backfired and is being exploited by Kim Jong-un for his own propaganda and military mobilization.

The country has seized on Trump’s words to reinforce its official narrative that its nuclear arsenal is defensive, meant to protect Koreans from bullying American imperialists. And North Korean officials use Trump’s bombast as an excuse for their own.

Trump Undercuts Tillerson on North Korea

“President Trump signaled Sunday that he does not believe that attempts at direct communications with North Korea are worth the effort despite escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang,” the Washington Post reports.

“A day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that the United States maintains ‘lines of communications’ with Kim Jong Un’s regime, Trump wrote on Twitter that Tillerson is ‘wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man’ — his nickname for Kim.”

Tillerson Says U.S. Is Talking to North Korea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged in Beijing on Saturday that the Trump administration is in “direct contact” with North Korea over its recent escalation of missile and nuclear tests, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Said Tillerson: “We’re not in a dark situation, a blackout. We have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang. We can talk to them, we do talk to them.”

“The acknowledgment suggests a potential deescalation after months of bellicose rhetoric on both sides, as well as repeated, provocative intercontinental ballistic missile tests and a nuclear test by North Korea.”

North Korea Asks Republicans for Help on Trump

“North Korean government officials have been quietly trying to arrange talks with Republican-linked analysts in Washington, in an apparent attempt to make sense of President Trump and his confusing messages to Kim Jong Un’s regime,” the Washington Post reports.

“The outreach began before the current eruption of threats between the two leaders but will probably become only more urgent as Trump and Kim have descended into name-calling that, many analysts worry, sharply increases the chances of potentially catastrophic misunderstandings.”

Said one Republican: “Their number one concern is Trump. They can’t figure him out.”

North Korea Says the U.S. Has Declared War

“North Korea’s foreign minister asserted that the pariah state has the right to defend itself by shooting down U.S. planes, even if they are not in the country’s airspace,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Ri Yong Ho: “The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country.”

He added: “Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country.”

On Saturday, President Trump tweeted about North Korea saying “they won’t be around much longer!”

Is Trump All Talk on North Korea?

New York Times: “Mr. Trump’s willingness to casually threaten to annihilate a nuclear-armed foe was yet another reminder of the steep risks inherent in his brute-force approach to diplomacy. His strengths as a politician — the ability to appeal in a visceral way to the impulses of ordinary citizens — are a difficult fit for the meticulous calculations that his own advisers concede are crucial in dealing with Pyongyang.”

“The disconnect has led to a deep uncertainty about whether Mr. Trump is all talk or actually intends to act. The ambiguity could be strategic, part of an effort to intimidate Mr. Kim and keep him guessing. Or it could reflect a rash impulse by a leader with little foreign policy experience to vent his anger and stoke his supporters’ enthusiasm.”

North Korea Says Attack on U.S. Is ‘Inevitable’

“North Korea’s foreign minister says that it is inevitable that missiles from his country will hit the United States after the American military flew bombers further north of the demilitarised zone than any American military plane in the 21st century, and after a week in which Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un exchanged personal insults,” the Independent reports.

Advisors Warned Trump Not to Personally Attack Kim

“Senior aides to President Trump repeatedly warned him not to deliver a personal attack on North Korea’s leader at the United Nations this week, saying insulting the young despot in such a prominent venue could irreparably escalate tensions and shut off any chance for negotiations to defuse the nuclear crisis,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Trump’s derisive description of Kim Jong Un as ‘Rocket Man on a suicide mission’ and his threat to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea were not in a speech draft that several senior officials reviewed and vetted Monday.”

“Some of Trump’s top aides, including national security advisor H.R. McMaster, had argued for months against making the attacks on North Korea’s leader personal, warning it could backfire. But Trump felt compelled to take a harder line.”

Kim Calls Trump a ‘Deranged Dotard’

“Responding directly for the first time to President Trump’s threat at the United Nations to destroy nuclear-armed North Korea, its leader called Mr. Trump a ‘mentally deranged U.S. dotard’ on Friday and vowed the ‘highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history,'” the New York Times reports.

“Although Mr. Kim is often quoted by official North Korean news media, it is highly unusual for him to issue a statement in his name. In North Korea, the supreme leader’s statement carries a weight that surpasses any other formal document.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports Trump “announced new financial sanctions targeting North Korea as his administration seeks to build international support for more aggressively confronting the rogue nation.”

Hawaii Prepares for Nuclear Attack

Honolulu Civil Beat: “Dozens of legislators and their staffers met behind closed doors Tuesday to hear a briefing by state Emergency Management Agency officials on preparedness for a North Korea nuclear strike on Hawaii.”

“Some lawmakers who attended stressed that the secret meeting was not called because of any immediate threat to the islands. Instead, it was a discussion of how to help the public prepare.”

Trump Threatens to ‘Totally Destroy’ North Korea

President Trump threatened that, if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” the New York Times reports.

Said Trump: “No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. The U.S. has great strength and patience but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

He added: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself.”

North Korea Tests Missile In Longest-Ever Flight

“North Korea conducted its longest-ever test flight of a ballistic missile Friday, sending an intermediate-range weapon hurtling over U.S. ally Japan into the northern Pacific Ocean in a launch that signals both defiance to its rivals and a big technological advance,” the AP reports.

“Since President Trump threatened the North with ‘fire and fury’ in August, Pyongyang has conducted its most powerful nuclear test, threatened to send missiles into the waters around the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam and launched two missiles of increasing range over Japan. July saw its first tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles that could strike deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.”

“The growing frequency, power and confidence displayed by these tests seem to confirm what governments and outside experts have long feared: North Korea is closer than ever to its goal of building a military arsenal that can viably target both U.S. troops in Asia and the U.S. homeland.”