Shared from the 3/7/2017 Philadelphia Inquirer - Philly Edition eEdition

Malaysia expels North Korean ambassador

Missiles are latest Trump challenge

N. Korea’s test-firing of 4 banned weapons has U.S. studying a response.

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Kang Chol (center), North Korea’s ambassador to Malaysia, arrives at Kuala Lumpur International Airport Monday after Malaysia expelled him amid the escalating dispute following the poisoning last month of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korea’s leader. North Korea responded in kind, announcing that it was ordering Malaysia’s envoy out of Pyongyang, but he had already been recalled. AP

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South Korean soldiers ride aboard a truck near the border with the North. U.S. and South Korean forces are conducting drills. AP

WASHINGTON — North Korea’s latest volley of missile tests put new pressure on a preoccupied Trump administration Monday to identify how it will counter leader Kim Jong Un’s weapons development.

North Korea’s march toward having a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the U.S. mainland is among the pressing national security priorities President Trump faces. He has vowed it “won’t happen” but has yet to articulate a strategy to stop it.

A wide array of options are on the table, but aggressive behavior by Pyongyang in response to U.S.-South Korean military drills that began last week could further shrink chances for diplomatic engagement.

Upheaval in the administration has added to uncertainty in foreign capitals about how Trump’s “America First” mantra will translate into foreign policy, and how a new president with no prior experience in government might handle a security crisis.

An administration official told the Associated Press Monday that tougher sanctions, military action, and resumption of long-stalled negotiations with North Korea are all under consideration as part of a policy review to provide options for the president within weeks.

The official, who demanded anonymity to discuss the private deliberations, did not anticipate an immediate U.S. response to the North’s test-firing of four banned ballistic missiles Monday that South Korean and Japanese officials said flew about 620 miles. Three of the missiles landed in waters that Japan, a close U.S. ally, claims as its exclusive economic zone.

North Korea typically reacts during the annual military drills that it considers an invasion rehearsal, although Washington and Seoul say they are routine.

This year’s response could be more heated than usual. Victor Cha, aformer White House adviser on Asia, said North Korea tends to up the tempo of missile tests during the drills when relations with the United States are bad. And next week, the drills shift from tabletop exercises to military maneuvers. “I think there are more tests coming,” Cha said.

The U.S. and Japan have requested an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the latest missile launches, likely to take place Wednesday, aU.S. diplomat said, demanding anonymity to speak before the official announcement.

North Korea, meanwhile, urged the council to discuss the U.S.-South Korea exercises, asserting the drills are driving the region toward “nuclear disaster.”

China joined the international community in condemning the missile launch and urged calm in the region.

“China opposes North Korea’s violation of the UN Security Council’s stipulation,” Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said.

However, the spokesman also criticized the United States and South Korea for the maneuvers.

China has traditionally been one of North Korea’s few allies. However, repeated ballistic missile launches carried out by Pyongyang have tested that relationship.

This article contains information from Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

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