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USA 'prepared to defend ourselves' over N Korea

27 April 2017

The top USA commander in the Pacific told Congress on Wednesday the United States may need to strengthen its missile defenses, particularly in Hawaii, given the advancing threat from North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs.

After briefing senators in a highly unusual meeting at the White House on Wednesday, Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a statement that toned down military rhetoric and urged the worldwide community to help find a solution to North Korea's nuclear programme.

Earlier this month the Pentagon ordered the USS Carl Vinson and its escort ships to the waters off the Korean Peninsula, and this week the US military deployed the THAAD anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea to respond to North Korea's continued missile tests and nuclear development.

North Korea's U.N. Mission says the government will react to "a total war" with the United States with a nuclear war.

Almost every USA senator attended an unusual all-hands meeting on North Korea at the White House Wednesday, though afterward few said any new information emerged about the increasingly tense United States standoff with Pyongyang.

"I really don't understand what is the president's game plan to get North Korea to change its calculation", Senator Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters. He said these were sufficient for now but could one day be overwhelmed, and suggested studying stationing new radar there as well as interceptors to knock out any incoming North Korean missiles. "And if China and North Korea both believe that President Trump will never allow that to happen, then you have a chance to peacefully solve this", he said.

The release specifically cites US allies South Korea and Japan as partners in the effort to reel in North Korea.

South Korea's military said Tuesday that North Korea held major live-fire drills in an area around its eastern coastal town of Wonsan as it marked the anniversary of the founding of its military.

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Harris said the USA has "a lot of pre-emptive options" that would affect North Korea's "military calculus". "One of these days soon, he will succeed".

In a sign of growing anxiety, Trump invited all 100 members of the Senate to attend a White House briefing on Wednesday with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Trump administration said on Wednesday it aimed to push North Korea into dismantling its nuclear and missile programs through tougher global sanctions and diplomatic pressure, and remained open to negotiations to bring this about. China, which has grown increasingly frustrated with North Korea, its traditional ally, and Russian Federation see the system's powerful radars as a security threat.

"There is not a pretty military solution here", Cardin said.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the THAAD system's deployment would "disrupt the regional strategic balance and further aggravate the tension on the peninsula".

"It's not in China's interest to have an unstable North Korea with nuclear weapons right on its border".

"China will firmly be taking necessary measures to defend our own interests", Geng added.

Mr Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, imposed sanctions on the North just over a year ago following a nuclear test and satellite launch by the North.

USA 'prepared to defend ourselves' over N Korea