Trump, North Korea, and Target Lists


With Adam Rawnsley

War of words. Within hours of President Donald Trump’s promise that if North Korea continues to add to its nuclear and ballistic missile capability, “they will be met with fire, fury…the likes of which the world has never seen,” Pyongyang issued its first specific threat against a U.S. target in recent memory. The announcement put Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific, squarely in the crosshairs, potentially making it “the first to experience the might of the strategic weapons of the DPRK,” Pyongyang warned.

Trump’s comments reflect the seriousness with which his administration is taking intelligence estimates that the North now has up to 60 nuclear weapons, “and has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power,” the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

From the WSJ: “A senior Trump administration official said Tuesday that Washington shouldn’t assume it will be able to contain a North Korea with nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles through traditional deterrence methods. ‘We are not going to allow North Korea to hold American cities hostage,’” the official said.

The New York Times puts the president’s harsh words into some historical perspective, finding little to compare it to in the modern era.

Go to the tapes. An interview Trump gave to the late Tim Russert in 1999 made the rounds on social media Tuesday night, where the then-real estate mogul told SitRep’s fellow South Buffalonian that he would launch a preemptive first strike to take out North Korea’s nukes.

Where’s Rex? Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been in Southeast Asia all week working to shore up support to hold the line against North Korea, while trying to offer Pyongyang a path forward to negotiations. But Trump may have cannonballed the effort, Michael Fuchs, former State Department deputy envoy on east Asian and Pacific affairs tells FP’s Robbie Gramer.

“This stunt will have deeply eroded the trust allies have in the U.S. to responsibly handle this threat,” Fuchs said. At the top of that list is South Korea and Japan. “And Tillerson’s attempt at getting others on board with the U.S. just had the rug pulled out from under it, just like Trump did with Tillerson over the Qatar crisis,” he added.

Fly by. On Monday, two U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers flew over Japan and South Korea along with…

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