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NUKEWARS
Trump's North Korea talk 'counterproductive': analysts
By Kelly MACNAMARA
Seoul (AFP) Sept 20, 2017


Trump issues stark threats to North Korea and Iran at UN
United Nations, United States (AFP) Sept 19, 2017 - President Donald Trump warned Tuesday that the United States is ready to "totally destroy" North Korea and vowed to confront Iran's "murderous regime" over its weapons program.

In his first address to leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly, Trump warned North Korea not to pursue its nuclear missile program in his starkest language yet, deriding its young leader Kim Jong-Un with the nickname "Rocket Man" and threatening to end his country.

"The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

"Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime," he said. "The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary."

As to Iran, Trump appeared to pave the way towards tearing up the nuclear deal signed in 2015 between six world powers and Iran.

Trump said the accord had failed to rein in the regime's subversive role in Middle East conflicts, and sent a clear signal that he intends to declare Tehran in breach of the deal when he reports to Congress next month.

"We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program," Trump told the assembly.

"Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you've heard the last of it," he said.

"Believe me. It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran's government end its pursuit of death and destruction."

Many of the assembly's members, including US allies and Iran deal signatories France and Britain, favor retaining the accord -- under which Iran surrendered much of its enriched nuclear fuel and exposed its nuclear sites to international monitors.

But some of Trump's closest advisors fear the agreement leaves Iran too close to the threshold of being able to quickly develop a nuclear weapon when restrictive clauses in the deal begin to expire in 2025.

With his threats to "totally destroy" North Korea, Donald Trump is playing into Pyongyang's hands by offering justification for a nuclear weapons programme it insists is for self-defence, analysts say.

The US leader used his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly to deliver a blistering warning to Pyongyang, after it tested its sixth and largest nuclear bomb and responded to new sanctions by launching its longest-ever missile flight over Japan.

Trump said Tuesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was "on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime".

If the US is "forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea".

Far from persuading Kim to give up his drive for nuclear weapons, analysts said Trump's speech could have the opposite effect.

"With those words, President Trump handed the Kim regime the soundbite of the century," said Marcus Noland at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

"It will play on a continuous loop on North Korean national television" as proof that Pyongyang needs an effective deterrent against what it views as American aggression.

Joel Wit, senior fellow at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said despite the bluster, it was far from clear that Washington was ready to pay the human price for a conflict.

But he added Trump was a "wildcard and it's hard for anyone to figure out when he is serious and when he isn't".

The US has 28,500 US troops stationed in the South, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War which ended in a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty.

Aside from the burgeoning nuclear threat, North Korean artillery bristles on the tense frontier, putting nearby Seoul and its millions of inhabitants in the crosshairs of conventional -- and chemical -- weapons.

Japan and its megacities are also within easy reach of Pyongyang's missiles.

Any US attack would risk massive retaliation with a potentially catastrophic loss of life.

Earlier this year Trump's former chief adviser Steve Bannon told The American Prospect: "There's no military solution, forget it."

Trump's comments probably sound to North Korean ears like empty threats, said Wit.

"I suspect they think they are going to prove (Trump) to be a paper tiger," he told AFP.

- 'Where is the red line?' -

But Jeung Young-Tae, director of military studies at Dongyang University in South Korea, said the rising threat from the North meant it was not possible to dismiss Trump's comments as "empty bluffing".

"The problem is, where is the red line to trigger a military option?" he said, adding that while conflict was still very unlikely, the North's continued provocations were making it harder for the US to agree to dialogue.

"Its ICBM and nuclear weapons programmes have become simply too big and too threatening to view as nothing more than a bargaining chip for negotiation. Now the threat is real for many Americans."

If the purpose of Trump's apocalyptic language is to bring the North Koreans to the negotiating table, his piecemeal approach to diplomacy is likely to be working against him, said Mira Rapp-Hooper, senior research scholar at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School.

In the same General Assembly speech, he also threatened to end a meticulously constructed deal with Iran over its weapons programme -- a move which makes the US look like an unreliable negotiating partner.

China -- the North's only major ally and trading partner -- has tried to cool the hyperbole in an effort to reboot long-stalled talks. But it has faced flak over its apparent reluctance to let the global censure destabilise the Pyongyang regime.

Rapp-Hooper said was unclear whether Trump's "apocalyptic" language was a strategy to scare Beijing to take a tougher line on its isolated neighbour, or a reflection of his belief in the effectiveness of military action.

"But basically that's a unholy choice between a real threat of deliberate war and a reckless gamble that risks horrid miscalculation," she said.

NUKEWARS
NK crisis boosts Japan's PM; China, Russia urge end to vicious cycle
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 19, 2017
The North Korea crisis has been like "divine aid" for hawkish Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, experts say, burnishing his nationalist credentials and possibly tempting him into a snap election. Abe is aiming to capitalise on a public perception of strong leadership in a time of crisis, as well as an opposition in turmoil, and is reportedly considering a vote as soon as late October. ... read more

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