WASHINGTON (AP) – The Latest on tensions on the Korean Peninsula (all times local):
The Trump administration says North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is an urgent national security threat and the U.S. will exert pressure through diplomatic measures and tighter economic sanctions.
That’s according to a statement issued by State Department, defense and intelligence chiefs Wednesday after briefing senators.
The statement outlines a policy that sounds similar to that of the Obama administration.
It says President Donald Trump aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile and proliferation programs, and is engaging the international community to achieve that and persuade Kim Jong Un’s government “to de-escalate and return to the path of dialogue.”
The U.S. “remains open to negotiations” to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but the statement adds, “we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies.”
North Korea’s U.N. Mission says the government will react to “a total war” with the United States with a nuclear war.
A mission press statement on Wednesday said North Korea will “surely win a victory in the death-defying struggle against the U.S. imperialists.”
The statement said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – the country’s official name – “can never be frightened” by the Trump administration’s effort to bring the country “into submission” by deploying a nuclear aircraft carrier strike group to waters off the Korean Peninsula.
The mission said “it is an unshakable will of the DPRK to go to the end if the U.S. wants to remain unchanged in its confrontational stance.”
It said the DPRK’s “heaviest counteractions” in response to “provocations of any forms and levels from the U.S.” will include a sudden pre-emptive attack involving maneuvers on the ground, in the seas, underwater and in the air “and various other methods.”
Senators have arrived for an extraordinary briefing by the Trump administration on the threat posed by North Korea and U.S. options in dealing with it.
All 100 senators were invited to Wednesday’s classified briefing at a building next to the White House. They were ferried from the Capitol by bus.
President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, defense secretary, top general and national intelligence director will brief them. The briefing team was to speak later to House members in the Capitol.
Though highly unusual, the briefings do not necessarily reflect a security crisis is imminent, although military tensions are rising on the divided Korean Peninsula.
But alarm is rising over North Korea’s progress in developing a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America.
A senior Democratic senator says he does not understand the Trump administration’s game plan on North Korea and hopes an extraordinary briefing for the entire Senate will provide answers.
Sen. Ben Cardin is the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was speaking to reporters ahead of a classified briefing by top administration officials to be held at the White House on Wednesday afternoon.
Cardin said the administration needs a strategy that can change North Korea’s calculus on its economy and security so it agrees to freeze and ultimately eliminate its nuclear and missile programs.
Cardin said the U.S. needs to plan for contingencies as Kim Jong Un is an unpredictable leader but there’s no “pretty military solution.” He said President Donald Trump’s recent deployment of military assets to the region “just heightens the temperature.”
The top U.S. military officer in the Pacific says frequent demonstrations of American military might are key to keeping North Korea in check.
Adm. Harry Harris Jr. tells the House Armed Services Committee that deploying American warships to waters around the Korean Peninsula and flying B-1 and B-52 bombers in the skies above help to “ameliorate (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un’s worst impulses.”
U.S. forces are also conducting exercises in the region with the Japanese and South Korean militaries.
Harris also said a U.S. missile defense system being installed in South Korea will be operational “in the coming days.” The work to set up the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system has angered North Korea, China and Russia. These countries see the system’s powerful radars as a security threat.
The top officer at U.S. Pacific Command is renewing his support for beefing up U.S. missile defense capabilities in Hawaii.
Adm. Harry Harris Jr., says America’s ballistic missile defense is “sufficient to protect Hawaii today” but it could be overwhelmed in an attack from North Korea.
He tells the House Armed Services Committee “we can and need to do more” to increase America’s integrated defense systems, which currently include interceptors based at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Harris says U.S. officials would not be doing their job if they don’t look at basing interceptors and a defensive radar in Hawaii.
“It merits further discussion,” he said, adding that more broadly the U.S. needs more interceptors. There are ongoing plans to increase the number of interceptors in Alaska.
More than 250 prominent women and women’s organizations are appealing to President Donald Trump to initiate a peace process with North Korea, South Korea and China to deescalate the nuclear crisis that threatens war.
In a letter sent to Trump on Wednesday, the women also call for a freeze on North Korea’s nuclear and long-range ballistic missile programs “in exchange for a U.S. security guarantee that would include suspending U.S.-South Korea military exercises.”
The appeal was organized by Women Cross DMZ which works globally for peace in Korea and organized a walk on the 70th anniversary of the division of Korea in May 2015 with 10,000 Korean women from North Korea across the DMZ to South Korea.
Among the signatories from over 40 countries were Nobel Peace laureates Mairead Maguire and Leymah Gbowee and U.S. feminist activist Gloria Steinem.
The senior U.S. Navy officer overseeing military operations in the Pacific says U.S. naval forces in the region are capable of defending themselves against any missiles North Korea may fire at them.
During congressional testimony Wednesday, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., says reports that the USS Carl Vinson battle group may be vulnerable to North Korean attacks are misleading.
Harris tells members of the House Armed Services Committee that “if it flies it will die” if launched against American war ships. He says North Korea doesn’t have a weapon that can threaten the Vinson group.
Harris is commander of U.S. Pacific Command. His testimony comes amid growing concerns over North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile programs.
Foreign policy experts say North Korea presents the most imminent threat to the United States.
Australia’s foreign minister says North Korea has utterly disregarded international law and violated U.N. Security Council resolutions on numerous occasions.
Julie Bishop said North Korea is “provocative and belligerent” and is “causing great tension in our region, that’s why Australia and others have called North Korea to change its behavior.”
She spoke Wednesday in Tallinn, Estonia, amid rising tensions between North Korea and South Korea and the United States, adding that Australia wants “to see a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.”
The Australian government recently said North Korea does not currently have nuclear weapons capable of reaching Australia. However, some news reports say North Korea has identified the Australian city of Darwin as a target because U.S. Marines are using it as a training hub.
North Korea will no longer host this year’s judo world junior championships because of security risks amid rising tensions with South Korea and the United States.
The International Judo Federation said Wednesday “this situation is alarming, and the outcomes are difficult to predict.”
The federation awarded the Oct. 18-22 event to Pyongyang with conditions including “that there was a stable international situation of the country.” It said the championships will instead be held in Zagreb, Croatia.
The federation said it made the change because some national teams “declined participation, others expressed concern regarding the participation of their children at this event.”
Other issues cited were canceled international flights to North Korea plus concerns about “safety and security of participants and their belongings, communications with the outside world, possibility of live streaming.”
The Chinese envoy for North Korea says China and Japan have agreed to coordinate in seeking to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and in urging North Korea to refrain from making further provocations.
China’s special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs, Wu Dawei, held talks Wednesday with his Japanese counterpart, Kenji Kanasugi, amid rising tensions and speculation that North Korea may soon carry out another nuclear or missile test.
Wu said the two sides also agreed on the importance of using peaceful means in resolving the problem. He said China opposes “war and unrest” on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea conducted live-fire artillery drills on Tuesday to mark the 85th anniversary of the founding of its army, while the Japanese and South Korean navies each conducted maritime exercises with the United States.
The U.S. Navy says aircraft from a carrier strike group headed for the Korean Peninsula are conducting a joint exercise with Japan’s Air Self Defense Forces in waters south of Japan.
A statement released Wednesday says Japanese aircraft are integrated with ongoing training by the USS Carl Vinson’s air wing. The exercise includes air training and information sharing to improve joint operation and communication between the two militaries.
It follows a two-day exercise with two Japanese destroyers as the Vinson group passed through the Philippine Sea en route to the Koreas. The Navy said that both exercises demonstrate the ability of the U.S. and Japan to work together at sea to respond quickly to threats in the region.
The U.S. is sending the Vinson to waters near the Korean Peninsula in a show of force amid concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and missile development. The carrier group will conduct joint exercises with the South Korean military.
South Korea says key parts of a contentious U.S. missile defense system have been installed a day after rival North Korea showed off its military power.
The work to set up the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, within this year has angered North Korea, China and Russia, which see the system’s powerful radars as a security threat.
South Korea said in a statement Wednesday that unspecified parts of THAAD were deployed. The statement said that Seoul and Washington have been pushing to get THAAD working soon to cope with North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency says six launchers, some intercept missiles and at least one radar have been deployed.
Seoul says North Korea conducted huge live-fire drills Tuesday.
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