After meeting with generals, Trump cites 'calm before the storm'

Following a meeting with his top generals, Donald Trump had a photo op with the brass during which he made some rather cryptic remarks that have tongues wagging in Washington.

CNN:

"You guys know what this represents? Maybe it's the calm before the storm," Trump said at the photo op Thursday night, following a meeting with his top military commanders.

When reporters present asked what he meant, Trump replied: "It could be, the calm, the calm before the storm."

Reporters asked if the storm was related to Iran or ISIS.

Trump replied: "We have the world's great military people in this room, I will tell you that. And uh, we're gonna have a great evening, thank you all for coming."

When asked again what he meant, Trump said only: "You'll find out."

Reporters in the room asked for a hint, but Trump concluded the questioning.

"Thank you everybody," Trump said.

The president did not have to have a public meeting with his generals.  He could have had a video conference anywhere if he wanted to talk about going to war and kept it secret.  Instead, the public meeting along with his cryptic words appears to be sending Kim Jong-un a message: we haven't forgotten about you, and time is running out.

Is it a coincidence that secretary of state Tillerson spent last weekend in China talking to the leadership about North Korea?  That was another very public signal sent to Kim.  China's attitude is crucial if the U.S. is going to take out North Korean nukes and their missile program. 

With relations between Beijing and Pyongyang at a historic low point, you have to wonder if the Chinese have begun planning for the aftermath of a U.S. strike rather than looking for ways to prevent it.

Associated Press:

The scene along the China-North Korea border in the wild mountains of northeast Asia provides some clues.

Despite a dearth of traffic and trade, construction crews are at work on a six-lane highway to the border outside the small Chinese city of Ji'an along the Tumen River, a corridor that could facilitate the rapid movement of tanks and troops.

Guard posts, barbed wire-topped fences and checkpoints manned by armed paramilitary troops mark the frontier along the border – signs of concern about potentially violent border crossers or even more serious security threats.

China's unwillingness to discuss its plans is likely a strategic choice by the notoriously secretive PLA, but potentially threatens unintended consequences were a major crisis to emerge, experts say.

"Each party has its own plans for action in the event of an emergency, but if they act individually without communicating with others, it raises the possibility of misjudgment and unnecessary military conflicts," said Jia Qingguo, dean of the school of International Studies at elite Peking University.

"There has long been a danger in this respect. Someone must take control of North Korea's nuclear weapons," Jia said.

Coordination is also needed on the handling of civilians, particularly with those international agencies experienced in dealing with such crises, Jia said. Among the refugees may be tens of thousands released from North Korean labor camps who may need medical treatment for communicable diseases and malnutrition.

"Refugees are a huge issue that could involve a tremendously large number of people and potentially become a humanitarian crisis," Jia said.

Asked about Chinese preparations for a North Korean crisis, defense ministry spokesman Col. Wu Qian offered assurance but no details at a monthly news briefing on Thursday.

"Dialogue and consultation is the only effective way to solve the problem concerning the Korean Peninsula, and the military option cannot be an option," Wu said. "The Chinese military has made all necessary preparations to safeguard national sovereignty and security and regional peace and stability."

The U.S. is not likely to follow up an air campaign against North Korea with an invasion.  But China may recognize that the Kim regime has to go and could take matters into its own hands.  In fact, the Chinese may be resigned to that option, knowing they are not deterring the U.S. from taking military action against Kim.

The Chinese may have whispered something to Secretary Tillerson that gave tacit approval to air strikes by the U.S.  We will never get a public assurance of that, but even China must now recognize the threat to peace of the Kim regime.  A U.S. strike in tandem with a swift Chinese takeover of North Korea that would prevent Kim from doing something crazy might be seen by some as the optimal solution to the crisis.

"Calm before the storm"?  Indeed.

Following a meeting with his top generals, Donald Trump had a photo op with the brass during which he made some rather cryptic remarks that have tongues wagging in Washington.

CNN:

"You guys know what this represents? Maybe it's the calm before the storm," Trump said at the photo op Thursday night, following a meeting with his top military commanders.

When reporters present asked what he meant, Trump replied: "It could be, the calm, the calm before the storm."

Reporters asked if the storm was related to Iran or ISIS.

Trump replied: "We have the world's great military people in this room, I will tell you that. And uh, we're gonna have a great evening, thank you all for coming."

When asked again what he meant, Trump said only: "You'll find out."

Reporters in the room asked for a hint, but Trump concluded the questioning.

"Thank you everybody," Trump said.

The president did not have to have a public meeting with his generals.  He could have had a video conference anywhere if he wanted to talk about going to war and kept it secret.  Instead, the public meeting along with his cryptic words appears to be sending Kim Jong-un a message: we haven't forgotten about you, and time is running out.

Is it a coincidence that secretary of state Tillerson spent last weekend in China talking to the leadership about North Korea?  That was another very public signal sent to Kim.  China's attitude is crucial if the U.S. is going to take out North Korean nukes and their missile program. 

With relations between Beijing and Pyongyang at a historic low point, you have to wonder if the Chinese have begun planning for the aftermath of a U.S. strike rather than looking for ways to prevent it.

Associated Press:

The scene along the China-North Korea border in the wild mountains of northeast Asia provides some clues.

Despite a dearth of traffic and trade, construction crews are at work on a six-lane highway to the border outside the small Chinese city of Ji'an along the Tumen River, a corridor that could facilitate the rapid movement of tanks and troops.

Guard posts, barbed wire-topped fences and checkpoints manned by armed paramilitary troops mark the frontier along the border – signs of concern about potentially violent border crossers or even more serious security threats.

China's unwillingness to discuss its plans is likely a strategic choice by the notoriously secretive PLA, but potentially threatens unintended consequences were a major crisis to emerge, experts say.

"Each party has its own plans for action in the event of an emergency, but if they act individually without communicating with others, it raises the possibility of misjudgment and unnecessary military conflicts," said Jia Qingguo, dean of the school of International Studies at elite Peking University.

"There has long been a danger in this respect. Someone must take control of North Korea's nuclear weapons," Jia said.

Coordination is also needed on the handling of civilians, particularly with those international agencies experienced in dealing with such crises, Jia said. Among the refugees may be tens of thousands released from North Korean labor camps who may need medical treatment for communicable diseases and malnutrition.

"Refugees are a huge issue that could involve a tremendously large number of people and potentially become a humanitarian crisis," Jia said.

Asked about Chinese preparations for a North Korean crisis, defense ministry spokesman Col. Wu Qian offered assurance but no details at a monthly news briefing on Thursday.

"Dialogue and consultation is the only effective way to solve the problem concerning the Korean Peninsula, and the military option cannot be an option," Wu said. "The Chinese military has made all necessary preparations to safeguard national sovereignty and security and regional peace and stability."

The U.S. is not likely to follow up an air campaign against North Korea with an invasion.  But China may recognize that the Kim regime has to go and could take matters into its own hands.  In fact, the Chinese may be resigned to that option, knowing they are not deterring the U.S. from taking military action against Kim.

The Chinese may have whispered something to Secretary Tillerson that gave tacit approval to air strikes by the U.S.  We will never get a public assurance of that, but even China must now recognize the threat to peace of the Kim regime.  A U.S. strike in tandem with a swift Chinese takeover of North Korea that would prevent Kim from doing something crazy might be seen by some as the optimal solution to the crisis.

"Calm before the storm"?  Indeed.

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