Trump and Mattis at odds on North Korea after missile test over Japan
Trump’s comment, a day after Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile over Japan that drew UN and global condemnation, renewed his tough rhetoric toward reclusive, nuclear-armed and increasingly isolated North Korea.
“The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years,” Trump, who just last week said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “starting to respect” the United States, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
“Talking is not the answer!”
The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2017
Hours later when asked by reporters if the US was out of diplomatic solutions with North Korea, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis replied: “No.”
“We are never out of diplomatic solutions,” Mattis said before a meeting with his South Korean counterpart at the Pentagon. “We continue to work together, and the minister and I share a responsibility to provide for the protection of our nations, our populations and our interests.”
North Koreans watch news of their country’s latest ballistic missile launch on a big screen in front of Pyongyang Station in the capital on Aug. 30, 2017.
Top Trump administration officials, including Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats will hold classified US Congress briefings on September 6, congressional aides said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone with Tillerson and urged the US to refrain from any military action on the Korean peninsula that would be “fraught with unpredictable consequences,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.
On Tuesday Trump, who has vowed not to let North Korea develop nuclear missiles that can hit the US mainland, said “all options are on the table,” a veiled reference to military force.
Bar is high, but this is perhaps the most dangerous, irresponsible tweet of his entire Presidency. Millions of lives at stake – not a game. https://t.co/NSlGIIyXCb
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) August 30, 2017
Lavrov said Russia, which has veto power on the UN Security Council, believes any further sanctions on North Korea would be counter-productive, the ministry added.
Japan is urging fresh sanctions and in Geneva US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood says discussions are under way with world leaders on what kind of further sanctions could imposed.
North Korea said its launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Tuesday was to counter US and South Korean military drills and was a first step in military action in the Pacific on “containing” the US island territory of
Testing from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, during Flight Test Standard Missile-27 Event 2 on 29 August 2017.
The UN Security Council condemned the firing of the missile over Japan as “outrageous,” and demanded that North Korea halt its weapons program although it didn’t threaten new sanctions.
Trump’s mention of payments to North Korea appeared to be a reference to previous US aid to Pyongyang.
A US Congressional Research Service report said that between 1995 and 2008, the US provided North Korea with more than $US1.3 billion ($A1.6 billion) in assistance, mostly for food and energy. The aid was part of a nuclear deal that North Korea later violated.
Trump’s latest tweet drew criticism from some quarters in Washington. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy wrote on Twitter: “Bar is high, but this is perhaps the most dangerous, irresponsible tweet of his entire Presidency. Millions of lives at stake – not a game.”