US president Donald Trump says a major conflict with North Korea is “absolutely” a possibility amid rising tensions over the north’s nuclear and missile programs.
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters.
Despite that he said, “We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult.”
His comments reflect the sentiments of Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull who said in a radio interview today that there is a “possibility and the risk that North Korea could launch an attack on its neighbours”.
“That is the reason why there is so much effort being put into seeking to stop this reckless and dangerous conduct by the North Korean regime,” he said.
“They are a real threat to the peace and stability in the region and of course, to the whole world.”
Turnbull suggested the only government with the capabilities to put the north in its place was China.
“The government that above all has the greatest leverage and ability to bring North Korea to its senses, is China,” he said.
“They have the greatest economic leverage and what they need to do – and as you’ve seen, President Trump has been discussing this directly with the President of China – what the Chinese need to do, is to work with the United States and other countries in the region to bring North Korea to its senses and stop this reckless conduct and all these reckless threats.”
Meanwhile, Trump has appeared to commend North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s ability to control his country.
“Not many 27-year-old men could go in and take over a regime,” Trump said in a Reuters interview published Thursday night. “Say what you want, but that’s not easy — especially at that age.”
“I’m just telling you, and I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit — I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do.”
Trump has praised the North Korean dictator’s unmerciful rule in the past. During a campaign stop in Iowa in 2016, he was reported to have said, “You gotta give him credit.”
“How many young guys — he was, like, 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden … he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss,” said Trump, according to ABC News. “It’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle, he wiped out this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn’t play games.”
As the youngest son of Kim Jong Il — the previous leader who died from a heart attack in 2011 — Jong Un seceded his father’s place after being heralded as “a great person born of heaven,” according to North Korea’s state-run media.
The president’s comments come at a time when the US and North Korea delivered a salvo of verbal threats, and amid the controversial deployment of a naval strike group in the Korean peninsula.
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump said to Reuters. “We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult.”
On Wednesday, the Trump administration declared North Korea “an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority” in a classified meeting with US Senators.
The government said it was focusing on economic and diplomatic pressure, including Chinese cooperation in containing its defiant neighbor and ally, and remained open to negotiations.
It came the same day as a US submarine, which usually carries Navy SEALs, arrived off the coast of North Korea.
The US Navy has refused to comment on the movements of SEAL Team 6, the group of Navy SEALs who took out Osama bin Laden in 2011, to Business Insider, and it normally doesn’t advertise the whereabouts of its submarines, as the craft are meant to be secretive. Read more on that here.
You can listen to Trump’s entire Reuters interview below:
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