Trump says ‘talking is not the answer’ regarding N.Korea

People watch a TV screen showing a local news program reporting about North Korea’s missile launch at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for more weapons launches targeting the Pacific Ocean to advance his country’s ability to contain Guam, state media said Wednesday, a day after Pyongyang for the first time flew a ballistic missile designed to carry a nuclear payload over Japan. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says that “Talking is not the answer” when it comes to North Korea. And he’s claiming the US has been paying North Koreans what he calls “extortion money” for decades.

“The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years,” Mr Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, adding: “Talking is not the answer!”

The tweet comes on the heels of the North’s recent missile test over Japan, a close American ally.

Mr Trump’s tweet did not spell out what he meant by “extortion” in the current standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program, and the White House did not immediately respond to questions.

North Korea has in the past temporarily halted nuclear development when the US and others provided food aid or other types of compensation. But the North hasn’t been making such demands, at least publicly, since Mr Trump came into office. Instead, it has been focused on finishing its decades-long effort to master the technology for fitting a nuclear warhead on a missile that can strike the US mainland, calling such capability essential for its national defence.

Mr Trump’s assessment about the need for dialogue also appears at odds with his top diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had in recent weeks been softening the conditions for a possible, formal dialogue with Pyongyang. The US also has been maintaining a diplomatic back channel with North Korea.

Mr Trump offered a surprisingly subdued response to Pyongyang’s latest missile test Tuesday, avoiding a repeat of his bombastic warnings earlier this month of a potential military confrontation.

Nonetheless, US officials announced Wednesday morning that they had conducted a missile defence test that resulted in the successful intercept of a medium-range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii. The test was conducted by the Missile Defense Agency and US Navy sailors.

“We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone in giving our Aegis BMD ships an enhanced capability to defeat ballistic missiles in their terminal phase,” Missile Defense Agency Director Lt Gen Sam Greaves said in a statement. “We will continue developing ballistic missile defence technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves.”

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