The Cable

SitRep: Pyongyang To Be ‘Utterly Destroyed’ In Case Of War, U.S. Warns

A look at the North's new ICBM, Russia's Lavrov says Trump the same as Obama

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, looks on during an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on November 29. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, looks on during an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on November 29. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

 

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

Haley explains war with North Korea. Speaking at an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that while Washington isn’t looking for a war with North Korea, “if war does come, it will be because of continued acts of aggression like we witnessed yesterday…and if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”

Trump’s take. Speaking at a campaign-style rally in Missouri on Wednesday, President Donald Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jung Un “Little Rocket Man” and a “sick puppy.”

About that missile. The new, larger, more powerful Hwagsong-15 ICBM launched Tuesday was the third ICBM test this year North Korea fired from a mobile system, and each came from a different location, underscoring the difficulty in targeting any specific launch site. The NYT has more details about other new features analysts have noted on the rocket that allows it to travel farther than the Hwagsong-14.

The WSJ also looks under the hood, and examines how South Korean ground-based missile defense systems, F-16 jets and navy ships began firing missiles into the sea within six minutes of Tuesday’s launch.

What to do? That’s anyone’s guess. It remains unclear what policy or military options the United States is considering to confront Pyongyang, which is already squeezed by the tightest sanctions in its history, and is facing down political pressure from China, its largest benefactor.

Meet up. American and Chinese generals huddled at an unannounced meeting the National Defense University on Wednesday. Pentagon officials said the meeting was set up months ago, but it comes at a time when both countries are increasingly worried about military miscalculation on the Korean peninsula.

Same old. The Trump administration is moving ahead with the same policies as his predecessor Barack Obama, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview published on Thursday. “Unfortunately, many actions of Donald Trump’s team are inertial and, in fact, are little different from the line of Barack Obama,” Lavrov said.

Civilian casualties. The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria said Thursday that at least 800 civilians have been killed in airstrikes since the campaign began in 2014. The number falls far below estimates from outside monitoring groups, however, which places civilian casualties in the thousands.

The monitoring group Airwars, for example, says a total of at least 5,900 civilians have been killed by coalition strikes. Since the air war kicked off, American and coalition aircraft have carried out more than 28,000 strikes and received 1,790 reports of potential civilian casualties, the report said. It’s still working through 695 reports of civilian deaths.

US says no civs killed in Somalia. The U.S. Africa Command denied Wednesday it killed any civilians in a strike on an al Shabab compound in Somalia in August, despite claims from locals that innocent men were killed by American special operations forces. The Pentagon has stepped up activities in the country this year, surging to 500 troops on the ground from just 40 this spring, and doubling the number of airstrikes from 2016.

The Daily Beast spoke by phone with several family members of the Somali civilians killed, who claim that the men were innocent, but the publication didn’t actually travel to the site of the fighting and was unable to verify their stories.

Defense hawks not worried about deficit. With an overhaul of the tax system working its way through the Senate that is expected to balloon the deficit by $1.4 trillion over the next decade, hawks on Capitol Hill don’t seem all that concerned, as long as they get their extra money for the Pentagon.

Business is booming for the arms industry. The tally is in and the U.S. has sold $42 billion worth of weapons abroad in 2017 according to the latest figures from the State Department. The $42 billion haul represents a nearly 20 percent increase over 2016 and may yet be eclipsed by next year’s sales on the strength of a large arms package negotiated by the Trump administration with Saudi Arabia.

Welcome to SitRep. As always, please send any tips, thoughts or national security events to paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or via Twitter: @paulmcleary.

Trump campaign’s WikiLeaks connection. Former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone has told the House Intelligence Committee that he used New York radio host Randy Credico as a middleman to communicate with WikiLeaks. Stone denies that his WikiLeaks cutout offered the campaign any advance notice of Russian hacking or the publication of Clinton campaign emails, saying that Credico only confirmed to him that WikiLeaks head Julian Assange intended to follow through on his publicly-tweeted intent to release more Clinton materials.

More DJI drone drama. A memo from the Los Angeles Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office has accused the popular Chinese hobby drone maker of using its customers’ drones to share information about American critical infrastructure with the Chinese government. DJI, which has already been stung by the U.S. Army’s prohibition on troops using its quadrotors over alleged cyber vulnerabilities, vigorously denied the allegation, which an ICE memo sourced to a singly drone industry source.

Delete. Indian intelligence is warning troops to delete Chinese messaging apps like WeChat and Weibo, saying that neighboring rivals like Pakistan and China have been exploiting them in order to gain information about Indian soldiers deployed along the country’s borders.

War criminal’s live suicide. Convicted Croat war criminal Slobodan Praljak carried out a bizarre spectacle at a hearing in The Hague on Wednesday, committing suicide by drinking poison after the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia denied the final appeal of his conviction for crimes against humanity carried out against Muslims in Croatia. Praljak produced a vial after his appeal was denied and took a swig, shouting “I have taken poison” while in the dock at the court.

Third time’s the charm. Russia is claiming once again that it’s totally super serious about pulling its forces out of Syria for real this time — really, it swears. Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev said “preparations are underway” for a drawdown that could begin before the end of the year but astute observers will be reminded of similar March 2016 and January 2017 announcements of a Russian military withdrawal from Syria.

Leakiest ship in the IC. There’s yet another leak of classified National Security Agency data after a researcher at cybersecurity firm UpGuard found at least 47 files and folders with top secret data from the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command accessible to anyone on the Internet. UpGuard informed the government about the exposure, which contained information on the Army’s Distributed Common Ground System used for sharing intelligence data.

Possible address change for the U.S. embassy. Trump administration sources tell NBC News that the White House is serious about moving ahead on a promise that many presidents make but which none have yet to deliver on — moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israeli media have reported that news about a potential move could come over the weekend and sources say Trump is considering the option but the White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders has called such reports “premature.”

Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary

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