Trump summons entire Senate to White House briefing on North Korea

Extraordinary step taken as administration pressures UN security council for full force of existing sanctions and further measures in event of nuclear test

The entire US Senate will go to the White House on Wednesday to be briefed by senior administration officials about the brewing confrontation with North Korea.

The unusual briefing underlines the urgency with which the Trump administration is treating the threat posed by Pyongyangs continuing development of nuclear weapons and missile technology. It follows a lunch meeting Trump held with ambassadors from UN member states on the security council on Monday where he emphasised US resolve to stop North Koreas progress.

The status quo in North Korea is unacceptable and the council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Trump said at the meeting. North Korea is a big world problem, and its a problem we have to finally solve.

On Friday the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is due to chair a security council foreign ministers meeting on the issue in New York, at which the state department said he would call once more for the full implementation of existing UN sanctions or new measures in the event of further nuclear or missile tests.

This meeting will give the security council the opportunity to discuss ways to maximise the impact of existing security council measures and to show their resolve to response further provocations with appropriate new measures, said Mark Toner, state department spokesman.

Senators are to be briefed by the defence secretary, James Mattis, and Tillerson on Wednesday. Such briefings for the entire senate are not unprecedented but it is very rare for them to take place in the White House, which does not have large secure facilities for such classified sessions as Congress.

Officials said the briefing would take place in the auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which can be adapted for such an event.

Michael Anton, a spokesman for the national security council, said that although the Senate did have its own facilities, the president offered this to [Senate majority leader Mitch] McConnell as a gesture and McConnell appreciated that so decided to do it here

Keep in mind this is still a Senate meeting, not a White House meeting, Anton added.

Senate aides were unsure of the purpose of using the White House as a venue, speculating it could be symbolic and intended to show Trumps seriousness or to showcase an assertive president as he approaches 100 days in office.

The state department appeared unaware on Monday that Tillerson would be delivering the briefing.

A sixth North Korean nuclear test has been anticipated for some months now. Some observers have speculated it could be conducted on Tuesday, on the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean armed forces.

When the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, was asked what the US would do if Pyongyang carried out a nuclear test, she told NBC news: I think then the president steps in and decides whats going to happen.

Haley said on Monday the US was not looking for a fight with North Korea but warned Pyongyang should not give us a reason for one.

The US aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and its battlegroup are due to arrive off the Korean peninsula after exercises with the Japanese navy. An Ohio-class guided missile submarine, the USS Michigan, docked at the South Korean naval base of Busan on Tuesday, the US navy reported, in what was described as a routine visit.

North Koreas state-run newspaper the Rodong Sinmun declared the countrys armed forces were ready to show their strength by sinking the carrier with a single strike.

The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, called for calm in a phone call with Trump. China hopes all parties involved will exercise restraint and avoid doing anything to exacerbate the tense situation on the peninsula, he said according to a summary of the call released by Chinas foreign ministry.

In recent days Haley and other US officials have underlined Chinas helpfulness in seeking to increase pressure on the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

Working with China for the first time they have really been our partner in trying to make sure that we hold him at bay, and I think its a new day when youve got China and the United States working together on a statement to condemn North Korea, Haley said.

They put pressure on him. He feels it. Thats why hes responding this way. And I think it is a different day.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/25/trump-summons-entire-senate-to-white-house-briefing-on-north-korea