US nuclear button ‘much bigger’ than North Korea’s: Trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, has been on collision course with US President Donald Trump regarding Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. (Reuters)
Updated 03 January 2018
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US nuclear button ‘much bigger’ than North Korea’s: Trump

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump boasted Tuesday that he has a bigger and more powerful “nuclear button” than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The president’s Tuesday evening tweet came in response to Kim’s New Year’s address, in which he repeated fiery nuclear threats against the United States. He said he has a “nuclear button” on his office desk and warned that “the whole territory of the US is within the range of our nuclear strike.”
Trump mocked that assertion, writing, “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!“
Earlier Tuesday, Trump sounded open to the possibility of an inter-Korean dialogue after made a rare overture toward South Korea in a New Year’s address. But Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations insisted talks would not be meaningful unless the North was getting rid of its nuclear weapons.
In a morning tweet, Trump said the US-led campaign of sanctions and other pressure were beginning to have a “big impact” on North Korea. He referred to the recent, dramatic escape of at least two North Korean soldiers across the heavily militarized border into South Korea. He also alluded to Kim’s comments Monday that he was willing to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics, which will be hosted by South Korea next month.
“Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea. Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not — we will see!” Trump said, using his derisive moniker for the young North Korean leader.
In response to Kim’s overture, South Korea on Tuesday offered high-level talks on Jan. 9 at the shared border village of Panmunjom to discuss Olympic cooperation and how to improve overall ties.
North Korea did not immediately react to the South’s proposal. If there are talks, they would be the first formal dialogue between the Koreas since December 2015. Relations have plunged as the North has accelerated its nuclear and ballistic missile development that now poses a direct threat to America, South Korea’s crucial ally.
The US administration, however, voiced suspicions that Kim was seeking to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington. Pyongyang could view a closer relationship with Seoul has a way for reducing its growing international isolation and relief from sanctions that are starting to bite the North’s meager economy.
“We won’t take any of the talks seriously if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters at the United Nations. “We consider this to be a very reckless regime. We don’t think we need a Band-Aid, and we don’t think we need to smile and take a picture.”
While Trump ratcheted up the tension Tuesday night, he doesn’t actually have a physical nuclear button.
The process for launching a nuclear strike is secret and complex, and involves the use of a nuclear “football,” which is carried by a rotating group of military officers everywhere the president goes and is equipped with communication tools and a book with prepared war plans.
If the president were to order a strike, he would identify himself to military officials at the Pentagon with codes unique to him. Those codes are recorded on a card known as the “biscuit” that is carried by the president at all times. He would then transmit the launch order to the Pentagon and Strategic Command.
North Korea has been punished with unprecedented sanctions at the UN over its weapons programs, and Haley warned Tuesday of more measures if the North conducts another missile test.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert did not express opposition Tuesday to South Korea holding talks with North Korea, but voiced deep skepticism about Kim’s intentions, saying he may be “trying to drive a wedge of some sort” between the US and its ally, which hosts 28,000 American forces.
South Korea’s liberal President Moon Jae-in has supported Trump’s pressure campaign against North Korea, but he’s less confrontational than the US president and favors dialogue to ease the North’s nuclear threats. Moon has long said he sees the Pyeongchang Olympics as a chance to improve inter-Korean ties.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the US would continue to put “maximum pressure” on North Korea to give up its nukes. She added that South Korea shares that goal.

 


Macedonia getting closer to solving name row with Greece

Updated 6 min 48 sec ago
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Macedonia getting closer to solving name row with Greece

SKOPJE: Macedonia has never been closer to solving its 25-year name row with Greece, but even if it fails Skopje will continue to integrate with Europe, its premier says.
“I believe that we have never had better circumstances to find a complete solution that will last for centuries and will remain forever,” Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told AFP in an interview.
The long-running name dispute between Macedonia and EU-member Greece dates back to 1991 when Skopje declared independence following the collapse of communist Yugoslavia.
Athens objects to Macedonia’s name because it has its own northern province called Macedonia, and fears it may imply territorial ambitions.
“If the dispute is not solved, the world will not end,” Zaev said.
“We will bring Europe here to Skopje (the capital). And we will push an European agenda one way or another.”
Because of the dispute, Macedonia was forced to join the United Nations under the name the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Greek veto threats have also hampered Skopje’s bid to become a member of the European Union and the NATO military alliance.
UN mediated talks to settle the row have resumed since Zaev’s Social Democrats won elections last year, ousting the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party of Nikola Gruevski after more than ten years in power.
The negotiations have made progress after Macedonia agreed in February to change the name of the capital’s Alexander the Great airport to Skopje International Airport, in a goodwill gesture to Greece.
Macedonia had also been accused of appropriating symbols and figures that are historically considered part of Greek culture, such as Alexander the Great.
The motorway linking Macedonia with Greece was also renamed the Friendship Highway.
Zaev said he was “satisfied” that “a huge part of the issues” between Macedonia and Greece had been solved and that he was optimistic about a final deal.
He has previously said an agreement could be reached by the summer. However, the 43-year-old declined to go into details about the ongoing talks, saying “it could destroy the entire process.”
Earlier this week the European Commission recommended opening EU accession talks with Skopje, an EU candidate since 2005, in a development Zaev described as “encouraging.”
“This is a message of open doors. That is very important for Macedonia,” he said, adding that more than 75 percent of Macedonians are in favor of the country’s integration into the EU and NATO.
However, “that does not mean that we should not improve cooperation with other countries, including the Russian Federation,” Zaev said.
Russia has openly objected to the aspirations of fellow Slavic countries in the Balkans to join NATO, most recently when Montenegro became a member in mid-2017.
“I want to improve cooperation with Russia,” Zaev said.
“(But) the Russian Federation should know that for us there is no alternative to NATO and the European Union. We will remain focused on that path. That is our absolute right, our expectation and how we view the future of this country and the people that live here.”