• North Korea next in Trump’s crosshairs

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    PRESIDENT Trump is reportedly weighing plans to place US nukes in South Korea or assassinate North Korea’s brutal dictator Kim Jong Un in response to the rogue nation’s relentless nuclear ambitions, including a potential strike on the West Coast.

    The White House National Security Council presented the options as part of an accelerated review of US policy on North Korea, ahead of Trump’s ongoing meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to NBC News.

    The leaked proposals could be aimed at persuading Xi into pressuring North Korea — its ally and trade partner — to face the music and come back to the table over its nuclear weapons program, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens told the Herald.

    “I would imagine Xi and the Chinese would make a strong argument for why it’s necessary to try to re-engage and perhaps probably would be prepared to say they are ready to do even more to pressure North Korea,” Stephens said.

    “But the trade-off would be some kind of commitment on the part of the U.S. to come back into the negotiation process” or scale back military exercises in the South China Sea.

    North Korea this week fired a projectile that flew about 37 miles into the East Sea. It followed ballistic missile tests in February and March, as the isolated country defies United Nations sanctions and works on a missile that could deliver a miniaturized nuclear weapon to the continental US

    The plans are far from new additions to the US foreign policy playbook and won’t come as a surprise to the Chinese, Stephens said. Moving more weapons to the Korean peninsula has been on the table since the US, under President George H.W. Bush, pulled its nukes from South Korea in 1991 to persuade North Korea to let international inspectors into its nuclear plants and re-energize diplomatic talks.

    “The two options have been on the long list of possible options for a long time and they have generally been found to have far too many downsides,” Stephens said.

    So far, Trump and Xi’s talks on North Korea have yet to materialize in a “package arrangement” to resolve the international concerns, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said yesterday.

    “President Xi … shared the view that this has reached a very serious stage in terms of the advancement of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities,” Tillerson said.

    “They discussed the challenges that introduces for both countries, but there’s a real commitment that we work together to see if this cannot be resolved in a peaceful way,” he said. “But in order for that to happen, North Korea’s posture has to change before there’s any basis for dialogue or discussions.”

    The Pentagon has already deployed a $36 billion high-altitude missile defense system in South Korea — an upsetting move for China, which calls it a national security threat. Meanwhile, South Korea is pleading for the international community to address North Korea.

    “Time is not on our side. We stand at the tipping point as North Korea is nearing the final stage of nuclear weaponization of its nuclear material,” South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Ahn Chong-ghee reportedly said at a conference this week.

    “It is imperative that we muster the will of the international community to deter North Korea’s single-minded pursuit of weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “As we work towards North Korea’s denuclearization, we count on the strong support of the international community.”

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