Can Anything Cool the Tensions Between the U.S. and North Korea?

North Korea’s vice foreign minister told the Associated Press Friday that President Trump was guilty of building up tensions between Washington and Pyongyang and “making trouble” with his confrontational tweets. Han Song Ryol also said that the Kim Jong Un regime would not hesitate to “go to war” if the U.S. were to engage the DPRK with military force.

“If the U.S. comes with reckless military maneuvers then we will control it with the DPRK’s pre-emptive strike,” said Han. “We’ve got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a U.S. pre-emptive strike.”

President Trump has been “aggressive” in his tweeting, but U.S. military maneuvers likely have the Kim regime much more nervous than the president’s social media remarks. The U.S. Air Force has been carrying out intense drills in Japan, and American special forces are doing the same in South Korea. Furthermore, the Syrian missile strike demonstrated Trump’s willingness to take action, and the MOAB drop in Afghanistan was a brutal display of American military might. The message was received in Pyongyang, even if it was not intentionally sent.

Even so, those tweets can’t be ignored…and they haven’t been. Last week, Trump said North Korea was “looking for trouble” with their continued defiance of international sanctions.

Han told the AP that the Kim regime wasn’t starting anything.

“Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words,” he said. “So that’s why. It’s not the DPRK but the U.S. and Trump that makes trouble.”

Of course, that ignores the fact that Kim Jong Un has already launched five nuclear tests in violation of international regulations, continues to test long-range ballistic missile technology in defiance of same, and rarely goes a week without threatening to turn Washington D.C. into a smoldering pile of ash.

If there were still hopes that Trump, in partnership with Chinese President Xi Jinping, could find a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s nuclear program, they were somewhat dashed on Friday with an explosive report from NBC News:

The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.

North Korea has warned that a “big event” is near, and U.S. officials say signs point to a nuclear test that could come as early as this weekend.

The intelligence officials told NBC News that the U.S. has positioned two destroyers capable of shooting Tomahawk cruise missiles in the region, one just 300 miles from the North Korean nuclear test site.

Both the Pentagon and the White House have said the report is purely fictional, but then, that is what they would say if they wanted to pre-emptively stop a North Korean test. As a candidate, Trump placed high value on being unpredictable with the military, and he’s carried that philosophy with him into the presidency. He doesn’t want anyone to know his plans until they’ve been executed.

But this plan, officially announced or not, is starting to look like the advent of war.

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