Donald Trump, South Korean leader discuss North Korea’s ‘Rocket Man’

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SOMERSET, N.J. — Top advisers to President Donald Trump on Sunday warned North Korea to give up its missile and nuclear weapons programs and to quit making threats against the U.S. and its allies or face destruction.

The warnings came a day after leader Kim Jong Un vowed to continue the weapons programs, saying North Korea is nearing its goal of “equilibrium” in military force with the United States. They also came as world leaders begin arriving in New York for the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly this week, where North Korea will be high on the agenda.

Trump is making his first appearance at the U.N. General Assembly, his biggest moment on the world stage since January’s inauguration. He is scheduled to address the world body, which he has criticized as weak and incompetent, on Tuesday.

Trump tweeted Sunday that he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in discussed North Korea during their latest telephone conversation on Saturday. Trump spoke with Moon from his New Jersey golf club, where aides said he was spending the weekend preparing for his U.N. debut.

U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Kim is “going to have to give up his nuclear weapons because the president has said he’s not going to tolerate this regime threatening the United States and our citizens with a nuclear weapon.”

Asked if that meant Trump would launch a military strike, McMaster said “he’s been very clear about that, that all options are on the table.”

Some doubt Kim — Trump referred to him as “Rocket Man” in Sunday’s tweet — will ever agree to give up his arsenal.

“I think that North Korea is not going to give up its program with nothing on the table,” said Senate intelligence committee member Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat.

Kim has threatened Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific, and has fired two missiles over Japan, a U.S. ally in Asia, including a missile launched on Friday. North Korea also recently tested its most powerful bomb.

The U.N. Security Council has voted unanimously twice in recent weeks to tighten economic sanctions on North Korea, including targeting shipments of oil and other fuel used in missile testing. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said North Korea was starting to “feel the pinch.”

Trump tweeted Sunday that long lines for gas are forming in North Korea and called it “too bad.”

Haley also warned of a tougher U.S. response to future North Korean provocations, saying the Security Council has “pretty much exhausted” all of its options and that she would be happy to turn the matter over to Defence Secretary Jim Mattis “because he has plenty of military options.”

Mattis said after Kim tested a hydrogen bomb earlier this month that the U.S. will answer any threat from the North with a “massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming.”

Trump has threatened to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea if the North continues with its threats. Haley said that wasn’t an empty threat from the president but she declined to describe the president’s intentions.

“If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behaviour, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed and we all know that and none of us want that,” Haley said. “None of us want war. But we also have to look at the fact that you are dealing with someone who is being reckless, irresponsible and is continuing to give threats not only to the United States, but to all their allies, so something is going to have to be done.”

McMaster also addressed published reports that Trump has changed his mind about withdrawing the U.S. from a global climate agreement. And he suggested that Friday’s bomb attack in London could lead Trump to introduce a stronger travel ban.

The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations reported Saturday that Trump administration officials, speaking at a climate meeting in Montreal, discussed a compromise that would involve staying in the deal but revising U.S. climate change goals.

The White House denied Saturday that Trump’s position had changed. McMaster also said the reports are false. He said Trump decided to leave the Paris climate accord because it is bad for the American people and the environment, but that “the president’s ears are open” to possible participation in a new agreement that addresses his concerns about the original 2015 deal.

Trump said as much earlier this year when he announced his decision to withdraw.

After Friday’s attack in London, Trump tweeted that “the travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and most specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!”

McMaster said a new travel ban “is something that we’re looking at.” Trump’s original travel ban has been tied up in federal court, with the Supreme Court scheduled to hear arguments next month in a challenge to the ban.

The White House said after Trump’s tweet that he and Moon are committed to strengthening deterrence and defence capabilities, and maximizing economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea.

Trump plans to meet with Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the U.N. General Assembly session this week.

Haley and Feinstein spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union” and McMaster appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and “Fox News Sunday.”

Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko contributed to this report.

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