United States says strategy on North Korea centers on sanctions, open to talks

The Trump administration hosted senators for an extraordinary White House briefing today at a perilous moment with North Korea, marked by the unpredictable nation's nuclear threats and stern talk of military action, if necessary, from the United States.

The letter comes at a time when Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are preparing to brief the entire senate and the White House on Korea.

The joint statement described North Korea as "an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority".

The United States pledged Wednesday to step up sanctions to force North Korea to resume dialogue over its nuclear programme, but said it was not looking to bring Kim Jong-Un s regime to its knees. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies.

The top US commander in the Pacific, Admiral Harry Harris, told Congress on Wednesday the system would be operational "in coming days" and suggested Beijing should focus on influencing North Korea rather than worrying about a purely defensive system. President Donald Trump also dropped in on the meeting.

"I don't share your confidence that North Korea is not going to attack either South Korea, or Japan, or the United States. once they have the capability", Harris told a lawmaker at one point.

The South's trumpeting of progress in setting up the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system, or THAAD, comes as high-powered US military assets converge on the Korean Peninsula and as a combative North Korea signals possible nuclear and missile testing.

As tensions reach a boiling point between North Korea, the USA, and the North's neighbors, Japan's government has issued a guide for its citizens on how to survive a missile attack that would take less than 10 minutes to hit Japan, The Washington Post reports.

On Tuesday, North Korea conducted large-scale, live-fire artillery drills, witnessed by national leader Kim Jong-un, as a reminder of its conventional threat to US-allied South Korea.

The THAAD system has been moved to South Korea in response to North Korea's increased missile and nuclear tests.

Xi has reportedly threatened to cut the flow of oil to North Korea if it continues to test its weaponry.

In Pocheon, 65 kilometers northeast of Seoul, South Korea's self-propelled guns, as well as multiple rocket launchers, fired off dozens of volleys toward mock targets.

The mission said "it is an unshakable will of the DPRK to go to the end if the United States wants to remain unchanged in its confrontational stance".

In a defiant response, South Korea has announced that key parts of a U.S. missile defence system have been installed to defend itself from any provocation from the North.

North Korea, which conducted its biggest ever artillery exercise to mark the 85th anniversary of its military's creation on Tuesday, says it needs to develop weapons to defend itself from USA aggression. It said it would win in a "death-defying struggle against the US imperialists".

A targeted US attack to take out North Korea's nuclear weapons program could spark a wider war on the Korean peninsula, lawmakers and experts have warned.

Citing the arrival of the USS Carl Vinson naval strike group off the Korean Peninsula, he says he presumes the assignment was "more for defensive capabilities than for offensive capabilities".

He added that the THAAD equipment is now in "field deployment" at the former golf course which South Korea offered to USFK, with the allies conducting a joint environmental effect survey of the new military base under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The U.S. has grown particularly concerned about the country's progress towards developing a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching U.S. shores.

The US already has extensive sanctions in place on North Korea, including a blanket ban on trade and a blacklist of anyone dealing with North Korea.

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