Military Options Are a Last Resort, Top U.S. General Tells South Korea

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, arriving Sunday at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. CreditAndrew Harnik/Associated PressOn Monday, China’s Ministry of Commerce and customs administration announced that the country would begin enforcing the sanctions on Tuesday, by fully banning imports of aquatic products, coal, iron and, iron ore, and lead and lead ore from North Korea. The seafood products it listed as banned include fish, crustaceans and sturgeon caviar. Seafood, along with coal, has been a sizable Chinese import from North Korea.

Chinese imported $91 million worth of seafood from North Korea in the first half of 2017, according to Chinese customs figures cited by Reuters.

China’s announcement came hours before General Dunford was scheduled to arrive in Beijing. He was scheduled to meet with Gen. Fang Fenghui, his Chinese counterpart, during his two-day visit, Pentagon officials said.

The visit to China was planned well before the recent North Korea developments, as part of a choreographed series of visits of top American and Chinese generals to one another’s countries. General Fang visited Washington in 2014.

In Beijing, General Dunford is expected to emphasize that Washington plans to complete the deployment of a missile defense system known as Thaad
in South Korea. China has vehemently opposed the deployment, calling it a threat to Chinese security.

Speaking to South Korea’s National Assembly on Monday, Defense Minister Song Young-moo said his military hoped to complete the Thaad deployment by the end of the year.

North Korea showed no sign of dialing down its rhetoric on Monday. In a statement denouncing annual joint exercises between the United States and South Korean militaries, scheduled to begin on Aug. 21, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency warned that a second Korean War would be a “nuclear war.”

“Even if no one wanted it, they would not be able to prevent a mere accidental spark from triggering a war,” the statement said.

North Korea objects strongly to the joint military exercises, calling them a rehearsal for an invasion, and has often responded to them with weapons tests. China has proposed that the joint exercises be suspended in exchange for a suspension of the North’s nuclear and missile tests, but Washington has rejected the idea.

Lee Jin-woo, a spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, said Monday that the joint exercises would go ahead as planned, denying a domestic news media report that they would be scaled down this year.

The North Korean military has said it would complete a plan to launch four ballistic missiles in waters around Guam, home to a major American Air Force base in the Western Pacific, by the middle of this month, and would then wait for Mr. Kim’s order to proceed. It has also claimed that 3.5 million young North Koreans have recently volunteered to join the military to fight the Americans.In China, the overseas edition of the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s main newspaper, said on Monday that the world had become used to belligerent statements from North Korea, but had been alarmed to hear similarly aggressive talk from the United States.

An editorial in the paper warned that the joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea would only make the situation worse. The overseas edition of the People’s Daily is a lower-circulation offshoot of the main, domestic edition, and its editorials broadly reflect official thinking.

”It’s to be feared that this will became a new goad for North Korea, and trigger another round of tit-for-tat confrontation,” the editorial said, referring to the joint exercises. “It is not advisable to play chicken on the Korean Peninsula. All sides should be careful in their words and actions.”
Chris Buckley and Jane Perlez contributed reporting from Beijing.

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