Trump: ‘Sad day’ for North Korea if US takes military action

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower, in this August 15, 2017 photo, in New York City. (AFP)
Updated 08 September 2017

Trump: ‘Sad day’ for North Korea if US takes military action

WASHINGTON/BEIJING: US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would prefer not to use military action against North Korea to counter its nuclear and missile threat but that if he did it would be a “very sad day” for the leadership in Pyongyang.
Trump again pointedly declined to rule out a US military response following North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test as his administration seeks increased economic sanctions, saying Pyongyang was “behaving badly and it’s got to stop.”
“Military action would certainly be an option. Is it inevitable? Nothing is inevitable,” Trump said during a news conference.
I would prefer not going the route of the military,” Trump said. “If we do use it on North Korea, it will be a very sad day for North Korea.”
Even as Trump has insisted that now is not the time to talk to North Korea, senior members of his administration have made clear that the door to a diplomatic solution remains open, especially given the US assessment that any pre-emptive strike would unleash massive North Korean retaliation.
While Trump talked tough on North Korea, China agreed on Thursday that the United Nations should take more action against Pyongyang but also kept pushing for dialogue to help resolve the standoff.
North Korea, which is pursuing its nuclear and missile program in defiance of international condemnation, said it would respond to any new UN sanctions and US pressure with “powerful counter measures,” accusing the United States of aiming for war.
The United States wants the UN Security Council to impose an oil embargo on North Korea, ban its exports of textiles and the hiring of North Korean laborers abroad, and to subject leader Kim Jong Un to an asset freeze and travel ban, according to a draft resolution seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
Pressure from Washington has ratcheted up since North Korea conducted its nuclear test on Sunday. That test, along with a series of missile launches, showed it was close to achieving its goal of developing a powerful nuclear weapon that could reach the United States.
“Given the new developments on the Korean peninsula, China agrees that the UN Security Council should make a further response and take necessary measures,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters.
“Any new actions taken by the international community against the DPRK should serve the purpose of curbing the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs, while at the same time be conducive to restarting dialogue and consultation,” he said, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
China is by far North Korea’s biggest trading partner, accounting for 92 percent of two-way trade last year. It also provides hundreds of thousands of tons of oil and fuel to the impoverished regime.
Trump has urged China to do more to rein in its neighbor, which was typically defiant on Thursday.

NORTH KOREAN THREAT
“We will respond to the barbaric plotting around sanctions and pressure by the United States with powerful counter measures of our own,” North Korea said in a statement by its delegation to an economic forum in Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East.
A UN Security Council diplomat said the US draft was “the ‘cutting room floor’ resolution, it’s everything” and that Russia had questioned what leverage it would leave the Security Council if North Korea continued to conduct nuclear and ballistic missile testing.
“Russia and China are not on board with the content of the resolution,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The United States has said it wants the draft resolution to be voted on Monday.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in spoke in Vladivostok and agreed to try to persuade China and Russia to cut off oil to North Korea as much as possible, according to South Korean officials.
North Korea accused South Korea and Japan of “dirty politics.”
North Korea says it needs its weapons to protect itself from US aggression. South Korea and the United States are technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.
While successive US administrations have insisted they will never recognize North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, Trump declined to answer a question on Thursday on whether he would accept a situation where Pyongyang would be deterred and contained from using its nuclear arsenal, saying he did not want to disclose his negotiating strategy.
A senior US official said afterwards it was unclear whether the Cold War-era deterrence model that Washington used with the Soviet Union could be applied to a rogue state like North Korea.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was grave risk that North Korea could “miscalculate” the US response to its weapons testing and warned Pyongyang not to under-estimate Washington’s resolve.
South Korea installed the four remaining launchers of a US anti-missile Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on a former golf course south of its capital, Seoul, early on Thursday. Two launchers had already been deployed.
More than 30 people were hurt when about 8,000 police broke up a blockade near the site by about 300 villagers and members of civic groups opposed to the deployment, fire officials said.
The deployment has drawn strong objections from China, which believes the system’s radar could be used to look deeply into its territory and will upset the regional security balance.
Mexico on Thursday said it had declared the North Korean ambassador persona non grata in protest at the country’s nuclear tests and gave him 72 hours to leave the country, an unusually firm step that moved it closely into line with Washington.
“North Korea’s nuclear activity is a serious risk for international peace and security and represents a growing threat to nations in the region, including fundamental allies of Mexico like Japan and South Korea,” the Mexican government said.
However, an official at the Mexican foreign ministry noted that President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government was not breaking diplomatic ties with North Korea.


Kurds in US struggle with distance amid Syria crisis abroad

Updated 14 min 52 sec ago

Kurds in US struggle with distance amid Syria crisis abroad

  • Feeling betrayed by the US abroad is nothing new for the Kurds, one of the largest groups of people without a state, estimated at 25 million to 35 million worldwide
  • the US contingent, estimated at 40,000 — 15,000 in Nashville — has been shaken to see its homeland attacked by Turkey and its people pushed out of Syria

NASHVILLE, Tennessee, United States: When President Donald Trump abruptly announced plans to withdraw American troops from northern Syria last month, Nashville’s city hall and a bridge below the downtown skyline lit up in the green, yellow and red of the Kurdish flag.
In the largest Kurdish community in the US, outraged protesters near Nashville’s federal courthouse draped themselves in the same colors and decried the deadly Turkish attacks that ensued in Syria. Chants of “I believe in Kurdistan” rang through the stands of a minor league soccer game
Feeling betrayed by the US abroad is nothing new for the Kurds, one of the largest groups of people without a state, estimated at 25 million to 35 million worldwide. But the US contingent, estimated at 40,000 — 15,000 in Nashville — has been shaken to see its homeland attacked by Turkey and its people pushed out of Syria.
Kurds have protested and prodded politicians, spurring some Trump-aligned officials to criticize the president’s decision. But many have felt largely helpless to aid their homeland as images of death and despair invade their social media feeds.
Yearning to do something constructive, Silav Ibrahim and other Nashville Kurds started collecting donations for Kurds who fled Syria to a camp in Iraq. Their initial efforts, coupled with donations from Kurds in Dallas, have yielded hundreds of boxes of clothes, medical supplies and more.
“We can’t do much,” Ibrahim said. “We can keep protesting and we will continue to do that. We will continue to write letters to our congressmen and women. But we wanted to really be able to at least collect something, do something where we can help those who are fleeing their homes.”
With their land divided among Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, the first wave of Kurds arrived in Nashville in the 1970s after the collapse of a Kurdish uprising in Iraq, according to the Tennessee Kurdish Community Council. More followed as refugees after the first Gulf War and the war in Iraq; others have since relocated because of conflict in Syria.
Abroad, Kurds have been US allies against the Daesh group for several years, losing 11,000 fighters in those efforts in Syria. Syrian Kurdish forces supported by about 1,000 American troops had held about a fourth of Syria’s territory.
Trump initially ordered all troops out of Syria last month. Three days later, Turkey launched its offensive with heavy bombardment along the frontier. The Trump administration then decided to keep a force in place, which Trump said was to protect oil infrastructure.
Sekvan Benjamin Mohammed said he served as an interpreter and adviser to US special forces during the Iraq War, among other deployments in the 2000s. He said Kurds deserve assurances that the US has their backs in return.
“(Trump’s) allowing a group of innocent people being killed and gassed over an oil field,” said Mohammed, a 42-year-old who has multiple Nashville-area businesses. “What kind of humanity is that?”
A mosque, markets and restaurants make up the shopping center at the heart of Nashville’s Little Kurdistan. It’s usually packed for Friday services at the Salahadeen Center.
At the mosque, barbershop owner Adnan Abdulkader said he felt backstabbed by Trump’s pull-out decision and subsequent declaration that Kurds are “no angels” who have “a lot of sand to play with.”
“It’s still like entertainment for him. It’s like he still thinks he’s running a TV show,” Abdulkader said. “You’re messing with people’s lives.”
Though Nashville tilts progressive, the state is firmly Republican. And Tennessee’s political leaders have had tumultuous relationships with immigrant communities, particularly in the Trump era.
Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn has supported Trump’s immigration policies but broke ranks to criticize the troop pull-back. She has asked the administration to investigate whether the Turks violated a cease-fire and wants tough economic sanctions if they did.
Meanwhile, Tennessee’s Republican-led Legislature has so far failed in its challenge of the federal refugee resettlement program, which brought many Kurds to Nashville. The Trump administration has cut the number of refugees to 18,000 nationally next year.
About 500 refugees were resettled in Tennessee last year under the program, down from a high of about 2,000 in 2016 and an annual average of less than 1,000, according to court testimony.
Some Kurds have been deported under Trump’s immigration policies, said Zaid Brifkani, a Nashville doctor who heads the Kurdish Professionals network.
“When you are part of an administration that is taking active measures against immigration, and when we are a majority population of immigrants, then there is going to be some disconnect between us as a community and the politicians that represent us because we feel like they won’t be able to adequately address our concerns,” Brifkani said.
Help isn’t just coming from within the Kurdish community.
At the Nashville donation drive, Lee Lohnes, an Army veteran who served in Iraq alongside Kurdish translators in the 2000s, boxed clothes to ship to displaced Kurds overseas. He wondered aloud how the US will recover in the Middle East.
“It’s just the greatest act of betrayal,” said Lohnes, an IT manager. “I can’t think of much worse. I’m doing my part, at least, to try to help them in any way I can.”