U.S. may launch strike if North Korea reaches for nuclear trigger

NBC News reports: The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.

North Korea has warned that a “big event” is near, and U.S. officials say signs point to a nuclear test that could come as early as this weekend.

The intelligence officials told NBC News that the U.S. has positioned two destroyers capable of shooting Tomahawk cruise missiles in the region, one just 300 miles from the North Korean nuclear test site.

American heavy bombers are also positioned in Guam to attack North Korea should it be necessary, and earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group was being diverted to the area.

The U.S. strike could include missiles and bombs, cyber and special operations on the ground.

The danger of such an attack by the U.S. is that it could provoke the volatile and unpredictable North Korean regime to launch its own blistering attack on its southern neighbor.

“The leadership in North Korea has shown absolutely no sign or interest in diplomacy or dialogue with any of the countries involved in this issue,” Victor Cha, the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told NBC News Thursday.

On Wednesday, North Korea said it would “hit the U.S. first” with a nuclear weapon should there be any signs of U.S. strikes.

On Thursday, North Korea warned of a “merciless retaliatory strike” should the U.S. take any action. [Continue reading…]

John Pomfret writes: For the first time, the Chinese government appears to have laid down a bottom-line with North Korea and is threatening Pyongyang with a response of “unprecedented ferocity” if the government of Kim Jong Un goes ahead with a test of either an intercontinental ballistic missile or a nuclear device. North Korea will celebrate the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung, on Saturday, and some type of military show of force is expected.

In an editorial in the semi-official Global Times on Wednesday, Pyongyang was put on notice that it must rein in its nuclear ambitions, or else China’s oil shipments to North Korea could be “severely limited.” It is extraordinary for China to make this kind of threat. For more than a decade, as part of its strategy to prop up one of its only allies, China refused to allow the U.N. Security Council to even consider cutting oil shipments to North Korea. Beijing’s calculus was that the maintenance of the North Korean regime took precedence over everything. Now Beijing seems to be reconsidering its position. [Continue reading…]

Politico reports: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he does not know whether the U.S. military’s use of the so-called “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan will send a message to North Korea, but he said “the problem” with that country “will be taken care of,” regardless.

“I don’t know if this sends a message,” Trump told reporters in the White House. “It doesn’t make any difference if it does or not. North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of.”

He added: “I will say, I think China has really been working very hard. I have really gotten to like and respect, as you know, President Xi. He’s a terrific person. We spent a lot of time together in Florida. And he’s a very special man. So we’ll see how it goes. I think he’s going to try very hard.” [Continue reading…]

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