President Trump started this week with his eyes set squarely on North Korea – first calling on the United Nations to establish new, stronger sanctions against the reclusive and increasingly volatile state, then calling on all one hundred members of the U.S. Senate to attend a special briefing on North Korea at the White house.
“The status quo in North Korea is also unacceptable,” Trump told a meeting of U.N. Security Council ambassadors at the White House. “The council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”
“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 that we have to finally solve,” he said. “People put blindfolds on for decades and now it’s time to solve the problem.”
After his meeting with the Security Council Ambassadors from the UN, Trump administration officials announced a rare White House briefing for the entire U.S. Senate on the developing situation in North Korea set to take place at 3PM EST on Wednesday. According to senior aides within the Senate, the briefing will be held by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, with Defense Secretary James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attending to provide additional information and insight. A similar briefing for members of the House of Representatives is said to be in the works as well.
While it is common for officials from within a presidential administration to travel to Congress in order to brief members on foreign policy and national security measures, it is far from normal to call on the entirety of the U.S. Senate to attend such a briefing at the White House. Including the four top officials scheduled to offer their expertise to the briefing makes this announcement even more historic.
The US Navy carrier strike group led by the Nimitz class carrier Carl Vinson is currently en route to the waters off the Korean peninsula, joined now by Japanese destroyers assigned to participate in military exercised intended to boost cooperation between the nations’ water-born military assets.
Although the Carl Vinson did not take the direct route to North Korea alluded to by the president in past remarks, its impending presence in the region has still prompted a new slurry of North Korean threats, including preemptive nuclear attacks on the mainland U.S. and suggesting that they will turn the Carl Vinson into “scrap” with a single strike.
China has called on the United States to exercise restraint in the face of North Korea’s most recent bout of saber-rattling, though they have also reportedly placed their bombers on high alert and begun accelerating maintenance schedules on their jet fighters in order to ensure they can field the largest possible airborne response to military action in North Korea.
Although China is traditionally an economic and even political opponent to U.S. interests in the Pacific, American military officials have expressed a distinct lack of concern regarding the People’s Liberation Army of China’s sudden shift in alert status, likely indicating that China has expressed their willingness to provide support not to the North Koreans, but to the international community calling on their disarmament.
“Clearly the Chinese regime is losing patience with North Korea,” said Michael Hirson, Asia director at consulting firm Eurasia Group. “We’re seeing some incremental steps that the Chinese may be in favor of doing more.”
“I think China is signaling to both sides, to the U.S. that China is doing more, that China is acting in good faith to head off a crisis in North Korea,” Hirson said. “Primarily they’re telling the U.S. that ultimately China feels the only solution in North Korea is one that involves diplomacy and getting North Korea to the table.”
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