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Defected North Korean Nuclear Scientist Commits Suicide After Being Forced to Return

Juliana Rose Pignataro
a group of people standing in a field posing for the camera                            © Provided by IBT US 

A North Korean nuclear scientist who defected to China committed suicide after being forced to return back, Radio Free Asia reported Thursday. The defector was a researcher at the physics center in the State Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang, the report said.

The scientist was identified as Hyun Cheoi Huh, though RFA clarified it was unclear whether that was his real name. The man reportedly took a leave of absence from his job at the academy before defecting.

He was sent back to North Korea Nov. 17, RFA reported.

“He killed himself only a few hours after he was placed in solitary confinement at the State Security Department in Sinuiju city,” a source told RFA, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “He died before he could be questioned about the reasons for his escape, and what his route had been.”

The man took poison inside the security cell where he was set to be questioned. It remained unclear how he smuggled the poison inside.

The man was detained in China and sent back to North Korea. It appeared he had kept his occupation a secret when he was detained, RFA reported, though it was unclear why.

“If the Chinese government had known who he was, they would have wanted to learn what he knew and would never have sent him back,” the source said.  (International Business Insider)

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China Builds World First Solar-Powered Highway |The Republican News

The world’s first photovoltaic expressway has begun to take shape in the city of Jinan, east China’s Shandong Province.

The expressway is set to open to the public in December this year.

The photovoltaic panels, which look like pieces of glass, pave Jinan’s city ring expressway and can hold middle size vans with strong friction.

With the capability of generating electricity under sunlight, photovoltaic roads can release power to electric vehicles passing on them. They are also able to instantly melt winter snow covering on the road.

The roads are also designed to provide technical support to unmanned vehicles in the future.

China’s first road test section with integral photovoltaic technology was completed in September 2017. The 160-meter-long, 660-square-meter test section was equipped with screens to show the power generation. Another photovoltaic road began testing in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province in November 2017.

The United States started research on solar-powered roads in 2006. However, the first solar road, for pedestrians and bicycles only, was completed in Netherlands in 2014. Solar panels are installed on some roads in Germany and Italy. France has launched a project to construct a 966-km photovoltaic road in 5 years.

Source: people.cn

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Nigeria’s UN Deputy Secretary Accused Of Aiding Illegal $300m Timber Export To China |RN

Amina-Mohammed

Uinted Nations Deputy Secretary, Amina Mohammed

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed faced accusations from an advocacy group on Thursday that she granted illegal permits to Chinese firms to import endangered Nigerian timber when she was Nigeria’s environment minister.

Documents provided by Mohammed were used by Chinese importers to clear more than $300m worth of rosewood logs held up by Chinese border authorities for months, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a Washington-based environmental campaigning organisation.

The EIA said its investigation had found that Nigerian officials were paid over $1m to help the importers release the rosewood, which was put on a list of endangered species last year by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

In January, Mohammed allegedly signed thousands of retroactive CITES permits allowing the export of 1.4 million rosewood logs in one of her last acts as environment minister before she was sworn in as deputy secretary-general in late February.

UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said Mohammed “categorically rejects any allegations of fraud.”

The signing of the permits for the rosewood exports was delayed after Mohammed insisted “that stringent due process was followed,” said Haq.

“She says that she signed the export certificates requested before the ban only after due process was followed and better security watermarked certificates became available,” he added.

Mohammed, the highest-ranking woman at the United Nations, served as environment minister from November 2015 to February of this year and had previously lead the UN’s efforts to agree on a new global anti-poverty agenda.

Foreign Policy magazine quoted a senior Nigerian forestry official, who asked not to be named and who said that Mohammed had signed 2 992 export certificates on January 16.

Mohammed had been due to begin her new post at the United Nations on January 1, joining Antonio Guterres as he began his term as UN chief.

But she delayed her move to New York to stay on as environment minister at the request of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and was finally sworn in as deputy secretary-general in late February.

The UN spokesperson said Guterres has been informed of the reports and “reiterates his full support and confidence in her.”

Exploding Chinese demand for African rosewood, also known as “kosso”, has depleted forests across West Africa, prompting CITES to impose strict restrictions last year.

According to EIA, Nigeria since 2013 has become the world’s largest exporter of rosewood logs, which are mainly used for luxury furniture.

CITES is scheduled to discuss the Nigerian rosewood exports to China at a meeting later this month in Geneva.

Source: AFP

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What An All-powerful Xi Jinping Means For the Rest Of The World |RN

By James Griffiths
Theresa May, Xi Jinping, Angela Merkel et al. posing for a photo                      © Photo Illustration/Getty images 

When US President Donald Trump visits China next month, he won’t be the most powerful person in the room.

Chinese President Xi Jinping further shored up his grip on power Wednesday, revealing a new leadership without an obvious successor and setting the stage for him to dominate politics in the country for decades to come.

That gives him a level of stability and influence the envy of most world leaders, sitting atop the world’s second-largest economy and one of its strongest militaries without any obvious challenger or check on his power.

Trump, Germany’s Angela Merkel and the UK’s Theresa May all face intense opposition at home, while even Russia’s Vladimir Putin cannot boast the stability and economic security Xi’s administration has.

Trump called Xi late Wednesday to congratulate the Chinese leader on a successful re-election, according to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Speaking to Fox Business after the call, Trump said “now some people might call (Xi) the King of China.”

In a highly choreographed ceremony in Beijing Wednesday, Xi said his leadership will be “steadfast in upholding our country’s sovereignty, security and development interests.”

The move caps a years-long effort by Xi to “make China great again,” said James McGregor, author of “No Ancient Wisdom, No Followers: The Challenges of Chinese Authoritarian Capitalism.”

“He has this narrative of ‘China was great, the foreigners ruined it, and the party has brought it back’.”

Political leadership

During this month’s Communist Party Congress, “Xi Jinping Thought” was enshrined in China’s constitution, an honor only granted to two other leaders: Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

In a speech during the political summit, held every five years, Xi heralded the start of a “new era” for the party and China, building on those overseen by Mao and Deng.

“Mao established the People’s Republic of China, Deng brought the country wealth and now Xi is going to bring power,” said Frank Ching, a Hong Kong-based commentator and expert on Chinese politics.

This has included a new assertiveness on the international stage, as evidenced by Xi’s ambitious economic and trade initiative — the One Belt, One Road plan — and his attempts, rhetorically at least, to take up the mantle of globalization and environmentalism.

McGregor told CNN that “given the chaos in Washington and also the dysfunction in Europe, the world is looking for leadership,” a vacuum Beijing is attempting to fill.

“(Xi) has exploited a strategic opportunity in Asia opened by the Obama administration’s caution and now the instability and disorder of the Trump administration,” according to a recent report by Australia’s Lowy Institute.

“Dressed up in the benign slogan of the ‘China Dream’, Xi’s strengthening of the party at home and his determination to press Beijing’s claim abroad has profound implications for China, its neighbors, and the rest of the world.”

Ching said that China is “now present all over the world, and as the US recedes, China is going to move in.”

Two new members of Xi’s cabinet, Li Zhanshu and Wang Huning, have strong foreign policy credentials in line with Xi’s desire for a more muscular overseas policy.

As his chief of staff, Li accompanied Xi on key overseas trips to the US and Russia, while Wang is a key architect of “neo-authoritarian” and “neo-conservative” policies which have shaped a focus on “nationalism and political order” under Xi, according to analyst Jude Blanchette.

A reshuffle of the 25 member Politburo, second only to the standing committee in terms of authority, also saw the promotion of the country’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, who has been a key player in crafting policy with regard to the US, India and other countries.

International assertiveness

Nowhere has Xi’s new bullish leadership been more obvious than in China’s foreign and military policy.

In the South China Sea Beijing has continued the building up and militarization of islands, reefs and islets in defiance of an international court ruling.

Despite repeated and vociferous objections from the US, UK, Philippines, Australia and other parties, China has stared them all down and largely won the argument — few claimants in the sea can challenge Beijing militarily, and while Washington has continued freedom of navigation exercises, the issue has not been a major one for the Trump administration.

“More than his predecessors, Xi has tried to leverage China’s diplomatic and military strength to press Beijing’s territorial claims in the East China and South China Seas, and lock in the country’s interests on its western flank,” the Lowy Institute report said.

On the chief point of contention between China and the US — North Korea — Beijing has also largely come out ahead, brushing off intense pressure from Washington to take a firmer hand on Pyongyang, though it has supported tighter sanctions and some limitations on North Korean businesses in China.

Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, said there has been speculation Xi “will have more bandwidth for addressing the North Korea threat after the Party Congress.”

He was skeptical of this however, saying the Trump administration’s policy of an immediate denuclearization of North Korea was “seen as a total illusion, completely unrealistic, and potentially dangerous in China.”

“Beijing’s overwhelming concern of the last few months has been to keep the US and North Korea quiet ahead of the Communist Party’s National Congress,” wrote analyst Adam Mount for CNN this week.

That task proved successful, leaving it less likely than ever China would bend to US pressure to take a firmer hand with its neighbor, potentially harming its own economy or destablizing a country of millions on its border.

Military might

As Xi has shored up his political power — overseeing an intense crackdown on dissent and critical voices — he has also ramped up his control of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Speaking on the 90th anniversary of the founding of PLA in August, Xi emphasized the party’s “absolute leadership” over the military, which he has pushed hard to modernize and which has been a major target of anti-corruption efforts.

In his speech, Xi emphasized the importance of the PLA’s combat readiness, saying that ongoing reforms of the army are key to ensuring its “readiness to defend state sovereignty and maritime interests.”

China has also improved military ties with Russia, staging a major joint naval drill near St Petersburg in August.

Russia is also a big player in China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, a series of trade and economic deals which stretch Chinese influence across Eurasia and much of Africa.

Both Europe and Africa have been targets of Chinese investments and aid — increasing economic ties with the European Union and funding major infrastructure projects across much of East Africa and other parts of the continent. Beijing is also poised to replace Washington as the major donor for much of the developing world.

However, Beijing’s posture, particularly its aggressive military and economic moves, could backfire, as previous world powers have discovered when they attempted to export their influence overseas.

While China has benefited from political instability in Europe and Trump’s “America First” policy, McGregor said the country “doesn’t have a lot of friends right now because there’s been so much of a strong stance.”

“Their (position) is for China to be strong and on its own, I don’t think they’ve looked at repercussions for the world and the way it’s making the world view China,” he added. (CNN3)

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North Korea Could Collpase Within A Year, Says Pyongyang Official |RN

Tom Embury-Dennis

 

North Korea could collapse within a year due to US sanctions, a defector and former Pyongyang official has said.

Ri Jong-ho, who ran an international network of North Korean businesses which funnelled money into the hermit kingdom, said the country “desperately wants relations with the US”.

“The sanctions that the White House has imposed on North Korea are of a historic level,” Mr Ri told an Asia Society event in New York.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.                   © AP Photo North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“Never before has the country faced such tough sanctions. I don’t know if North Korea will survive a year with these sanctions. People will die,” he said.

Mr Ri believes North Korea’s increasing provocations and Kim Jong-un’s rhetoric are an attempt to force the US into a diplomatic dialogue which does not involve South Korea.

He added: “Right now the leadership of North Korea have deployed missiles aimed at the US and are doing these provocations, but they desperately want relations with the US.”

The former official also said North Korea and China were currently at “the very worst point of their relationship” following Mr Kim’s purge of officials close to Beijing and Chinese President Xi’s decision to visit Seoul before Pyongyang on his first trip to the Korean peninsula in 2014.

Mr Kim branded Mr Xi a “son of a b—-” during a subsequent meeting of high ranking officials, according to Mr Ri.

Mr Ri served as chief of the Korea Daehung Trading Corporation, which is managed by a clandestine organisation under direct control of the Kim family, according to the South China Morning Post.

He told The Washington Post he was in charge of North Korean tactics to circumvent UN sanctions, before defecting with his family in 2014.

North Korea remains one the world’s most secretive countries. Run by the third supreme leader in the Kim dynasty, Kim Jong-un, the country has a population of around 25 million, with one of the world’s largest standing military forces. Take a look at the nation’s military might in pictures.            (The Independent)

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How British Top Diplomat Went To Asia And Annoyed The Chinese |RN

Alex Morales and Linly Lin
           © Brendon Thorne – Pool/Getty Images

 

Boris Johnson spent a week visiting Japan, New Zealand and Australia in the pursuit of post-Brexit trade deals. Instead, the gaffe-prone diplomat ended up riling a far bigger economy: China.

Known back home just as ‘Boris,’ Johnson is a popular figure often tipped as a future prime minister while he serves as foreign minister. He played a key role in changing the tide of public opinion in favour of the U.K. leaving the European Union.

In his official capacity, he’s been charged with charming nations and convincing them of the value of strengthening commercial ties with the U.K. even as it prepares to quit the biggest trading bloc of them all. The problem is that his rhetoric often lands himself in trouble.

In a speech in Sydney on Thursday, Johnson urged all countries bordering the South China Sea “to respect freedom of navigation and international law.” That sounded the alarm back in China, arguably the one economy Britain can ill-afford to peeve given the political sensitivities in play.

 

Britain “is ready once again to articulate our commitment to international order with money and a military presence,” he said, adding “that is why one of the first missions of our two vast new aircraft carriers will be to sail through the Straits of Malacca.”

Making Waves

While Johnson didn’t point the finger at China directly, his comments were interpreted as an indelicate reference to overlapping territorial claims in the region by countries including China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

China claims most of the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes, and in recent years it has boosted its military presence, reclaiming thousands of acres of land to build artificial outposts on reefs. The Strait of Malacca is the gateway to the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean from the Indian Ocean.

“There are no longer any British colonies in East Asia and the presence of Britain’s warship in the region is more like an aberration,” China’s Global Times said on Friday in an editorial. “Brexit is weakening Britain’s influence, and it appears that the country needs to do something to assert its sense of identity. If it goes too far, however, it will get itself in trouble.”

While the Global Times isn’t a Chinese government publication, it’s affiliated with the ruling Communist Party and is often used as a mouthpiece for government thinking. The government’s official response was more measured.

‘Tranquil’ Sea

“An individual nation that is not in the region insists on making some waves in the South China Sea where it has turned tranquil,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “China is sincere in creating a golden era in China-U.K. relations, but it requires efforts from both sides to improve any bilateral relationships.”

The economics of keeping China happy are compelling. It was the seventh-biggest destination for British exports in 2017, and the second-biggest outside Europe, buying more than 13 billion pounds ($17 billion) worth of goods in 2016, according to U.K. statistics.

It was also the third biggest source of imports, with Britain buying some 36 billion pounds worth of goods. China’s importance was not completely lost on Johnson, though.

“We will be here as a partner and friend, aiming at good relations with all the major countries of this region — not choosing between them,” he said. “Our relationship with China, the engine of global growth, will be crucial now and in the future.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net, Linly Lin in London at llin153@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Michael Winfrey  (Bloomberg)

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China Establishes First Military Base Overseas To Djibouti Military Base

Ships carrying personnel for China’s first overseas military base, in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, have set sail to begin setting up the facility, as China’s rapidly modernising military extends its global reach.

Djibouti’s position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fuelled worry in India that it would become another of China’s “string of pearls” of military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

China began construction of a logistics base in Djibouti last year. It will be used to resupply Navy ships taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.

It will be China’s first overseas naval base, though Beijing officially describes it as a logistics facility.

State news agency Xinhua said late on Tuesday the ships had departed from Zhanjiang in southern China “to set up a support base in Djibouti”.

Navy commander Shen Jinlong “read an order on constructing the base in Djibouti”, but the news agency did not say when the base would begin operations.

Xinhua said the establishment of the base was a decision made by the two countries after “friendly negotiations and accords with the common interest of the people from both sides”.

“The base will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peace-keeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and West Asia,” it said.

“The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining the security of international strategic seaways,” Xinhua said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing the base would enable China to make “new and greater contributions” to peace in Africa and the world and would benefit Djibouti’s economic development.

Djibouti, which is about the size of Wales, is at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal. The tiny, barren nation sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia also host U.S., Japanese and French bases.

(Source: Today)

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China Bans Islamic Names In Muslim Dominated Province

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Chinese authorities have banned parents in western China from naming their children Islamic names.

The move is seen by analysts as part of the Asian giant’s efforts to minimise religious influence on life in the ethnic Uighur minority heartland.

According to reports from China, “Muhammad,” ”Jihad” and “Islam” are among at least 29 names banned in the predominantly Muslim region.

If a parent chooses one of the barred names, the child will be denied government benefits.

“Imam,” ”Hajj,” ”Turknaz,” ”Azhar” and “Wahhab” are on the list, as are “Saddam,” ”Arafat,” Medina” and “Cairo.”

Reports said the names were banned because they were related to historic religious or political figures and some place names.

It is unclear how widespread the ban is or whether it is tightly enforced.

The naming restrictions are part of a broader government effort to secularise Xinjiang, which is home to roughly 10 million Uighurs, a Turkic people who mostly follow Sunni Islam.           (Punchng.com)

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Mystic Predicts World War III Imminent, Says Bashar Assad Will Die Next Month

A MYSTIC who allegedly predicted the presidency of Donald Trump has claimed to know the date World War 3 will break out.

By NICOLE STINSON

Putin: There can be no peaceful solution with Assad in power

Mystic Horacio Villegas, who claims to be a messenger of God, believes a deadly international war will be triggered on the 100th anniversary of the visitation of Our Lady of Fatima, a title given to the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother.

According to Mr Villegas the war will be started by Donald Trump on May 13, which is the anniversary of Mary appearance to the village of Fatima, in Portugal, in 1917.

The international conflict will then ravage the world for six months because the last time Mary allegedly appeared to the village – on October 13, 1917 – she is said to have warned: “The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.”

Donald Trump, Bashar al-Assad, Putin, Kim Jong-unGETTY  A mystic claims World War 3 will be triggered by the death of Syrian president Assad

Donald TrumpGETTY The Trump administration has revealed all options are on the table for dealing with North Korea

This same warning was also claimed to be a prophecy for the ending of First World War, which ended a year later.

Speaking about his theory Mr Villegas said: “The main message that people need to know in order be prepared is that between May 13th and October 13 2017, this war will occur and be over with much devastation, shock and death.”

But Mr Villegas claims the world will initially tricked by a “false flag” with conflicts emerging between April 13 and May 13 which will Syria and North Korea.

Horacio Villegas

His comments come as North Korea has warned it is prepared to go to war if it is provoked by the US.

The mystic said: “The reason I feel the coming false flag might be during this Holy Week is because just as Christ suffered on a Good Friday at one time, the world is about to enter its Good Friday moment as well and it would fit in God’s timeline as to the start of this dark period in human period in human history that this war would be sparked near Good Friday 2017.”

He claims the chemical attack in Syria was a pre-cursor to World War 3 as he added: “Russia is already being baited into war through Syria, just as the zionists were seeking and China will be baited through North Korea.”

Vladimir PutinGETTY Vladimir Putin has been criticised for remaining an ally of Syria following the chemical attack

The mystic, who claims to a follower of the Roman Catholic faith, has said his reasoning is also backed by other “prophets”.

Nostradamus, a French physician who published a number of prophecies which are said to have come true, said: “Mabus will soon die, then will come, a horrible undoing of people and animals, at once one will see vengeance, one hundred powers, thirst, famine, when the comet will pass.”

Mr Villegas has alleged that “Mabus” may refer to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad as there is talk between world leaders that the president could be forcibly removed from power.

He added: “If Assad is bombed and killed, this could very much fulfil this prophecy because afterwards all hell would break loose.”

(The Express, UK)

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US. May Launch Strike If North Korea Reaches For Nuclear Trigger

William M. Arkin and Cynthia McFadden and Courtney Kube and Kenzi Abou-Sabe

The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.

North Korea has warned that a “big event” is near, and U.S. officials say signs point to a nuclear test that could come as early as this weekend.

The intelligence officials told NBC News that the U.S. has positioned two destroyers capable of shooting Tomahawk cruise missiles in the region, one just 300 miles from the North Korean nuclear test site.

American heavy bombers are also positioned in Guam to attack North Korea should it be necessary, and earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group was being diverted to the area.

The danger of such an attack by the U.S. is that it could provoke the volatile and unpredictable North Korean regime to launch its own blistering attack on its southern neighbor.

“The leadership in North Korea has shown absolutely no sign or interest in diplomacy or dialogue with any of the countries involved in this issue,” Victor Cha, the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told NBC News Thursday.

On Wednesday, North Korea said it would “hit the U.S. first” with a nuclear weapon should there be any signs of U.S. strikes.

On Thursday, North Korea warned of a “merciless retaliatory strike” should the U.S. take any action.

“By relentlessly bringing in a number of strategic nuclear assets to the Korean peninsula, the US is gravely threatening the peace and safety and driving the situation to the brink of a nuclear war,” said North Korea’s statement.

North Korea is not believed to have a deliverable long-range nuclear weapon, according to U.S. experts, nor does it yet possess an intercontinental missile.

South Korea’s top diplomat said today that the U.S. would consult with Seoul before taking any serious measures. “U.S. officials, mindful of such concerns here, repeatedly reaffirmed that (the U.S.) will closely discuss with South Korea its North Korea-related measures,” foreign minister Yun Byung told a special parliamentary meeting. “In fact, the U.S. is working to reassure us that it will not, just in case that we might hold such concerns.”

U.S. Officials Are Aware of the Risk

“Two things are coming together this weekend,” said retired Adm. James Stavridis, former commander of NATO and an NBC analyst. “One is the distinct possibility of a sixth North Korean nuclear weapons detonation and the other is an American carrier strike group, a great deal of firepower headed right at the Korean Peninsula.”

The U.S. is aware that simply preparing an attack, even if it will only be launched if there is an “imminent” North Korean action, increases the danger of provoking a large conflict, multiple sources told NBC News.

“It’s high stakes,” a senior intelligence official directly involved in the planning told NBC News. “We are trying to communicate our level of concern and the existence of many military options to dissuade the North first.”

“It’s a feat that we’ve never achieved before but there is a new sense of resolve here,” the official said, referring to the White House.

The threat of a preemptive strike comes on the same day the U.S. announced the use of its MOAB — or Mother of All Bombs — in Afghanistan, attacking underground facilities, and on the heels of U.S. missile strikes on a Syrian airbase last week, a strike that took place while President Trump was meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago.

Multiple government officials familiar with the situation say President Trump has talked to Chinese president Xi twice about North Korea since their Florida summit.

China has since sent its top nuclear negotiators to Pyongyang to communicate the gravity of the situation to the North, officials say. On Wednesday, President Xi called for a peaceful resolution to the escalating tensions.

Moscow has weighed in as well: “We are gravely concerned about Washington’s plans regarding North Korea, considering hints about the unilateral use of a military scenario” the Putin government said in a press release issued on Tuesday.

South Korea Must Sign Off

Implementation of the preemptive U.S. plans, according to multiple U.S. officials, depends centrally on consent of the South Korean government. The sources stress that Seoul has got to be persuaded that action is worth the risk, as there is universal concern that any military move might provoke a North Korean attack, even a conventional attack across the DMZ.

Tensions have escalated on the Korean Peninsula, as this Saturday marks the anniversary of the birth of the nation’s founder — Kim il-Sung, grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un. At the highest levels in South Korea and the U.S., sources told NBC News, there are fears North Korea could mark the “Day of the Sun” by testing a nuclear device.

“North Korea in the past has used these major national holidays to celebrate the strengths of the regime and to reinforce the national narrative of their independence,” says Cha.

According to multiple sources, the U.S. intelligence community has reported with “moderate confidence” that North Korea is preparing for its sixth underground nuclear test, though the U.S. is also in the dark regarding the specific timing.

The Trump administration, emboldened by their punishing strike on Syria, and by a successful meeting with the Chinese leader, hopes that the Chinese will use their considerable leverage to dissuade Kim Jong UN and his government from moving ahead with their nuclear program.

President Trump has said he thinks Xi “wants to help us with North Korea,” He credited China during Thursday’s White House news conference with Xi with taking a “big step” by turning back boats of coal that North Korea sells to China.

“I think that is what President Trump is getting trying to get the Chinese to do,” said Cha. “[It] would impose real pain and force real choices on North Korea — whether the costs are worth it for them to continue to pursue this program if they no longer have any sustenance.”

In addition to the coal ships, the Chinese made an important gesture at the UN Thursday: A surprising abstention on a Security Council resolution condemning a Syrian chemical weapons attack. China didn’t stand with the Russians on Syria, as it has in the past.

The president also made clear that if the Chinese were unable to diffuse the situation, the U.S. would go to alone. On Thursday, he tweeted: “I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the U.S., and its allies will!”

NBC News

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