Trump Asia tour to focus on actions 'short of war' vs North Korea
MANILA, Philippines – President Donald Trump's first visit to Asia Pacific will focus on persuading leaders in the region to expand economic and diplomatic isolation against North Korea in a bid to make the country abandon its nuclear weapon ambitions.
"President [Trump] will consult with leaders across the region to understand better what more we can do to resolve this crisis short of war, which obviously everyone wants to avoid," US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said in an interview with Asian journalists on November 2. Rappler obtained a transcript of the interview.
McMaster said "diplomacy with other countries" is the "main effort" to deal with North Korea. But "military force is an option" if it continues with its "intolerable" aggressions.
"The discussions will be around mainly what more we can do now to resolve this, short of war, recognizing that all of us are running out of time. The United States, South Korea, Japan, China are running out of time on this," said McMaster.
McMaster said the countries should not be constrained by the UN Security Council resolutions. "Feel free to do more to increase the diplomatic and economic isolation of North Korea so the leadership there gets a very strong message that they have no option but to denuclearize, right, and to stop this missile program and this nuclear program, and reverse it," he said.
He cited actions to constrain "money-making enterprises" that North Korea "run out of their embassies" such as "slave labor" and "smuggling" among a "broad range of illicit activities" to circumvent UN sanctions.
Pyongyang has carried out multiple launches of missiles that threaten to reach the US mainland. It also conducted its 6th nuclear test.
Priorities: Japan and South Korea
Trump's Asia tour comes as the word war between the US and North Korea prompts World War III fears. In August, Trump threatened North Korea of "fire and fury" over its missile program. North Korea responded by threatening to strike US military installations in Guam. (READ: Hillary slams Trump's 'dangerous war of words with North Korea)
The first two stops of Trump's Asia tour – Japan and South Korea – will highlight US security alliance with North Korea's neighbors.
"His prioritization of his relationship with those two leaders, with Prime Minister Abe and President Moon, will communicate to everyone the strength of the US alliance with Japan and the strength of the US alliance with the Republic of Korea. The President will communicate our resolve to work together with our allies to resolve this crisis," McMaster said.
McMaster said US is forging "even stronger defense cooperation with Japan" as it supports Abe's "clear vision for how to evolve Japanese defensive capabilities."
"We have to do everything possible to improve defensive capabilities, especially with these horrible provocations associated with ballistic missiles being shot across Japan. It’s intolerable. We have to do everything we can to not only respond to the grave threat from North Korea but to make sure that we have all the capabilities we need should it become necessary to resolve that threat without the cooperation of the North Korean regime," said McMaster.
'China should prioritize friendship with South Korea'
Trump's next stop will be China. He is also expected to discuss with President Xi Jinping how the two countries can cooperate in addressing the situation in North Korea. This is on top of expanding economic relations with Asia's biggest economy.
McMaster said the talks will "cover the area of security and the need primarily in the area of security to address this threat from North Korea."
McMaster said China should realize that its relationship with South Korea is more important than its relationship with North Korea.
"I think what China has recognized is that you cannot sanction South Korea for defending itself against this very dangerous and rogue regime. I think what China may be realizing as well is that it makes more sense, at least from our perspective, to prioritize its relationship with South Korea over its relationship with North Korea. It (North Korea) is not only a dangerous state but a failing state at the same time," said McMaster. – Rappler.com