The Trump administration will brief all 100 U.S. senators on North Korea at the White House tomorrow in an unusual summit amid growing fears of a nuclear showdown with the rogue nation.
“The status quo in North Korea is … unacceptable,” President Trump said at a White House meeting with United Nations Security Council members yesterday. “This is a real threat to the world. Whether we want to talk about it or not, North Korea is a big-world problem, and it’s a problem we have to finally solve.”
Trump called on the U.N. Security Council to impose “additional and stronger sanctions” on North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program.
Underscoring the standoff, high-ranking Trump officials will conduct a rare briefing at the White House for the entire Senate on North Korea. Though the meeting is being organized by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, it will be conducted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford.
A separate briefing is in the works for members of the House, Reuters reported.
Concerns continue to grow that North Korea could conduct another nuclear test, in the wake of recent ballistic missile tests. Today marks the 85th anniversary of the founding of its military, and North Korea tried — and failed — to launch a missile on April 15 to commemorate the birthday of founder Kim il-Sung.
Trump warned that the world has “put blindfolds on for decades” on North Korea and should place tougher sanctions on the isolated Stalinist nation.
Recent U.S. commercial satellite images seem to show increased activity around North Korea’s nuclear test site. North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests so far, the latest in September.
Dictator Kim Jong Un has said the country’s preparation for an intercontinental ballistic missile is in its “final stage.” South Korean Prime Minister and acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn meantime ordered the military to strengthen its “immediate response posture” to prepare for a North Korean threat today.
Trump was on the phone yesterday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Xi told Trump that China — a major North Korean ally — opposes North Korea’s nuke program and hopes “all parties will exercise restraint and avoid aggravating the situation,” according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
The White House reported that Trump decried North Korea’s “continued belligerence” in his call with Xi.
“The two leaders reaffirmed the urgency of the threat posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, and committed to strengthen coordination in achieving the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” the White House said in a statement.
Added White House press secretary Sean Spicer: “China has been very, very helpful in this process and continues to be. And I think we hope to see a change in behavior. But it is a very positive sign, the level of engagement that China has been … has enacted.”
Meanwhile, the USS Carl Vinson carrier group has been joined by two Japanese destroyers for exercises, and South Korea was in talks to also hold joint naval drills, Reuters reported.
Piling onto the global anxiety, North Korea is still detaining a U.S. citizen who attempted to board a flight to China with his wife on Saturday. Tony Kim, who also goes by the name Kim Sang-duk, taught accounting at Pyongyang University. He is the third U.S. citizen believed to be currently detained in North Korea.
Spicer yesterday said the Trump administration is calling on North Korea to release Kim.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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