A missile is fired from a naval vessel during the test-firing of a new type of anti-ship cruise missile to be equipped at Korean People’s Army naval units. REUTERS/KCNA
U.S. President Donald Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in “the menace of North Korea” on Thursday, after North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike.”
Trump told a news conference “some very unusual moves have been made over the last two or three hours,” and that he was confident Chinese President Xi Jinping would “try very hard” to pressure Beijing’s ally and neighbor North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.
While Trump gave no indication of what the moves might be, U.S. officials told Reuters that the United States was aware of a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers, signaling a possible heightened state of readiness. The officials played down concerns and left open a range of possible reasons.
Those possibilities included defensive exercises or Chinese concerns over North Korea. None of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested alarm or signaled that they knew the precise reason for such Chinese activity.
U.S. officials have been saying for weeks that North Korea could soon stage another nuclear bomb test, something both the United States and China have both warned against.
Trump has taken a hard line with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has proceeded with nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions.
The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
Tensions have risen sharply in recent months after North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests. Trump, who took office in January, has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile.
Trump has focused his efforts on North Korea on trying to persuade China to put more pressure on its ally and could view any unusual Chinese military movements as supportive of this.
He told a news conference with the visiting prime minister of Italy on Thursday that the United States was “in very good shape” on North Korea and that China’s Xi, whom he met this month for a summit in Florida, was working hard to help.
“We don’t know whether or not they’re able to do that, but I have absolute confidence that he will be trying very very hard.”
Trump repeated a past comment that he had told Xi in Florida that China would make much better deal on trade with the United States “if you get rid of this menace or do something about this menace of North Korea.”
‘SUPER-MIGHTY PREEMPTIVE STRIKE’
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, struck an aggressive tone earlier on Thursday.
“In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes,” it said.
Reclusive North Korea regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea and the United States and has shown no let-up in its belligerence after a failed missile test on Sunday, which followed a huge display of missiles at a parade in Pyongyang.
South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted an unnamed South Korean government source as saying that the U.S. Air Force had dispatched a nuclear sniffer aircraft on Thursday to the east of the Korean Peninsula in anticipation of a possible nuclear test.
he U.S. Defense Department does not comment on deployments of the WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft used to collect samples from the atmosphere to detect and analyze nuclear explosions.
The U.N. Security Council on Thursday condemned North Korea’s latest failed missile test and demanded it not conduct any more nuclear tests.
South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, at a meeting with top officials on Thursday, repeatedly called for the military and security ministries to maintain vigilance.
The South Korean defense ministry said U.S. and South Korean air forces were conducting an annual training exercise, codenamed Max Thunder, until April 28. North Korea routinely labels such exercises preparations for invasion.
“We are conducting a practical and more intensive exercise than ever,” South Korean pilot Colonel Lee Bum-chul told reporters. “Through this exercise, I am sure we can deter war and remove our enemy’s intention to provoke us.”
William Perry, who served as U.S. defense secretary from 1994 to 1997 and negotiated with North Korea, said he did not believe Pyongyang was planning a surprise attack, despite the fiery rhetoric.
But he warned: “They are doing a lot of bluster and a lot of threats, and they might misplay that hand and blunder into a war.” — By Steve Holland and Phil Stewart | WASHINGTON
(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in Washington, William James in London, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Idrees Ali in Riyadh, Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Kim Do-gyun in Gunsan, South Korea; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel and Alistair Bell)
North Korea launches health survey system with UNICEF
Presentation on North Korea’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) launch event (Image grabbed from Reuters video)
North Korea launched a health survey system with UNICEF on Wednesday (June 20) in Pyongyang, state media reported.
Video provided by North Korea’s official news agency KCNA, which Reuters cannot independently verify, showed Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), Shanelle Hall, and other foreign delegations attending a launch event at Taedonggang Diplomatic Club and looking at photographs of health screening for children and relief supplies on display.
The data collected by Pyongyang’s Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017 through UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) is based on an international methodology and laid bare some of the hardships in the lives of the population.
The United Nations is restricted in the aid it can give to North Korea because of international sanctions, but it can help with nutrition, health, water, and sanitation — as long as it has the basic data on the needs of the people, according to UNICEF. — Reuters
Trump says North Korea has returned remains of 200 U.S. war dead
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a rally with supporters in Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
President Donald Trump said North Korea had returned on Wednesday (June 20) the remains of 200 U.S. troops missing from the Korean War, although there was no official confirmation of the move from military authorities.
“We got back our great fallen heroes, the remains, in fact today already 200 have been sent back,” Trump told a crowd of supporters during a rally in Duluth, Minnesota.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Tuesday that in coming days North Korea would hand over a “sizeable number” of remains to United Nations Command in South Korea, and they would then be transferred to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.
Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a historic summit last week in Singapore, and said in a news conference afterwards that Kim had agreed to return the remains of U.S. soldiers.
About 7,700 U.S. military personnel remain unaccounted from the 1950-1953 Korean War, U.S. military data show. According to the Pentagon, North Korean officials have indicated in the past that they have the remains of as many as 200 U.S. troops. More than 36,500 U.S. troops died in the conflict. — Reuters
Trump signs executive order to keep immigrant families together
U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order on immigration policy in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Donald Trump, addressing what his administration has characterized as an unwanted side effect of his zero-tolerance policy on illegal immigration, signed an executive order on Wednesday (June 20) to keep families who illegally cross the U.S. southern border together as they await immigration proceedings.
“It’s about keeping families together while at the same time making sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border,” Trump told reporters as he signed the measure.
The order requires that immigrant families be detained together when they are caught entering the country illegally, although it was not immediately clear for how long. It also moves parents with children to the front of the line for immigration proceedings. The order does not end a “zero tolerance” policy that calls for criminal prosecution of immigrants crossing the border illegally.
Videos of youngsters in cages and an audiotape of wailing children had sparked anger in the United States from groups ranging from clergy to influential business leaders, as well as condemnation from abroad, including Pope Francis.
Trump, a frequent viewer of cable television newscasts, had recognized the family separation issue was a growing political problem, White House sources said. First lady Melania Trump, in private conversations with the president, urged him to do something, a White House official said.
Wednesday’s move marked a rare instance since Trump took office in January 2017 in which he has changed course on a controversial policy, rather than digging in. — Reuters