Do you go to sleep hoping that when you wake up the threat of a new war in North Korea will be over? Well, if so, last night wasn’t your night. The drums of war are getting thumped harder than ever, as both the United States and North Korea keep threatening each other.
Here’s a breakdown of everything that happened overnight.
Trump talks to China and Japan, but not South Korea
Last night Donald Trump had phone calls with both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Noticeably absent was any call to the caretaker government of South Korea.
China urged calm and restraint from both the US and North Korea in the lead-up to April 25th, a holiday in North Korea when experts predict Kim Jong-un may test a nuclear weapon or new ballistic missile.
“China adamantly opposes any actions in contravention of the United Nations Security Council resolutions,” Xi said in a readout that was released by the Chinese side. The Trump regime has yet to issue a statement about the call.
Japan was steadfastly pro-US and has even begun echoing the language of Trump, who has said that every possible response to North Korea’s tests is on the table.
“North Korea’s nuclear and missile program is an extremely serious threat to security not only in the international community but also for our country,” Prime Minister Abe said. “We will continue to closely cooperate and maintain the high level of warning and surveillance. We will respond resolutely.”
South Korea goes to the polls on May 9th to choose a new government, but even the traditionally pro-US conservative party has spoken out against Trump recently after he lost credibility by lying about sending an armada to the region.
Theoretically, the US needs buy-in from both Japan and South Korea before striking North Korea, as those would be the countries hit hardest with conventional weapons in the event of war. But with South Korea effectively leaderless, there’s a dangerous power vacuum that Trump could exploit for a preemptive strike.
Mike Pence is heading back to Washington early
Vice President Mike Pence touched down in Honolulu overnight and was originally planning to spend two days in Hawaii on his way back from visiting South Korea, Japan, and Australia. But Pence’s trip to Hawaii has reportedly been cut short. Pence is now planning on being back in Washington DC on Tuesday.
Tuesday, of course, is the 25th—the day when experts predict North Korea is most likely to conduct a nuclear test or a missile test.
Either Pence is just like Jeff Sessions and doesn’t think Hawaii qualifies as a state, or there’s something he needs to be back in the nation’s capitol for. We’re trying not to read too much into this move, but who doesn’t want to spend another day in Hawaii?
[Steve Herman, White House Bureau Chief for VOA]
North Korea threatens to nuke Australia and American ships in the region
Australia is a key US ally in the Pacific region. The country has sent troops to every major military conflict that has involved the United States since World War II. (Unlike Australia, even Canada skipped the Vietnam War.) So, when North Korea sees troops amassing in Australia, they assume (perhaps correctly) that something’s up.
On April 18th, 1,250 US Marines arrived in the northern Australian city of Darwin. The city of Darwin was bombed by the Japanese in World War II, killing over 230 people, before it became a fortified Allied base. North Korea claims that this recent mobilization is the largest US military move to Australia since World War II.
North Korea’s protestations about US Marines in Australia come on the heels of threats by the dictatorship to nuke the land down under if necessary.
“If Australia persists in following the US moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK and remains a shock brigade of the US master, this will be a suicidal act of coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of the DPRK,” officials from North Korea said.
Australia countered with a verbal rebuke of its own.
“The North Korean government should invest in the welfare of its long-suffering citizens, rather than weapons of mass destruction,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said, adding that North Korea’s nuclear program are “a grave threat to its neighbors and, if left unchecked, to the broader region including Australia.”
North Korea takes a third US citizen prisoner
Until this weekend, North Korea held two US citizens in prison. But now they’ve decided to make it three.
Tony Kim, a 58-year-old US citizen who’s also known by his Korean name Kim Sang-duk, had been teaching accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology for the past month before being arrested at the airport trying to leave the country. It’s not clear yet what Kim will be charged with.
The other two US citizens currently being held by North Korea are Otto Warmbier, a college student at the University of Virginia who tried to steal a North Korean propaganda poster and is now serving 15 years of hard labor, and Kim Dong Chul, who’s serving 10 years for allegedly spying on behalf of South Korea and the US.
Russia has something to say too guys
After a lot of confusion about its true location, the USS Carl Vinson has reportedly been conducting drills in the Pacific with Japanese forces this weekend. And Russia wants to make it clear that it has an interest in the region too.
“We again turn to Washington with an appeal, like other capitals in the region, to show maximum restraint and be guided by logic, no matter what dates we mark,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier today, without making clear who the “we” was in that sentence.
Ryabkov stressed that “escalation is unacceptable,” according to Russian state media network Sputnik. So yeah, all you hawks shouldn’t forget about Russia. They want to play nuclear war too, guys.
Update, 12:11pm: These don’t seem like great signs for peace...
A few things were announced this morning that might give pause to anyone worried that Trump might do something stupid this week. First, Trump is having dinner tonight with Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, two Republicans who didn’t like Trump until he started to bomb the shit out of things.
Secondly, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley told news outlets this morning that the US could strike North Korea if the country conducts a nuclear test or launches a missile. Haley explained that the US would strike “if you see [Kim Jong-un] attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile, then obviously we’re going to do that.”
Thirdly, Trump has cancelled a dinner he had planned with Supreme Court Justices on Thursday. Which might not be a huge deal, but would definitely be something you’d do if you thought you’d be busy later this week.
And lastly, this doesn’t seem good:
As Reuters points out, it’s not unusual for members of Congress to go to the White House for a briefing. But it’s highly unusual for all 100 members of the Senate to be summoned to the White House.
The meeting will take place at 3pm Eastern time. There are reportedly plans underway for a similar kind of briefing for members of the House.
Update, 2:05pm: And then there’s this...
The State Department just announced that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will chair a special meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday at 10am ET to talk about North Korea.