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President Trump is refusing to say whether the U.S. sabotaged North Korea’s launch of ballistic missile that blew up shortly after liftoff Sunday morning.
“I don’t want to comment on it,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt at Monday’s White House Easter Egg Roll.
Last month, the New York Times reported that during President Barack Obama’s last three years in office, he quietly ordered a surge in strikes against the missile launches — including the use of “electronic warfare” techniques to combat them. It’s unclear whether such a counterattack was used to sabotage Sunday’s launch.
“The approach taken in targeting the North Korean missiles has distinct echoes of the American- and Israeli-led sabotage of Iran’s nuclear program, the most sophisticated known use of a cyberweapon meant to cripple a nuclear threat,” the Times’ David Sanger and William Broad wrote in early March.
During his “Fox & Friends” interview, Trump would also not comment on what the U.S. response would be if North Korea attempted to launch another missile.
“We’ll find out,” the president said.
Earlier this month, Trump deployed a U.S. Navy strike group to the vicinity of the Korean Peninsula in a show of force against dictator Kim Jong Un’s nuclear provocations.
“We are sending an armada, very powerful,” Trump said on Fox Business. “We have submarines — very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you.”
North Korea is one of Trump’s most difficult national security challenges. During the last two administrations, Pyongyang made enough progress on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that, experts predict, it could strike the U.S. mainland — possibly even the East Coast — in two to three years.
As Yahoo News previously reported, the Obama administration enlisted China and other world powers in two rounds of international sanctions, and left Trump options for further tightening the economic vise, according to administration and congressional sources.
Trump has also repeatedly signaled in his interest in working with China to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
“China’s trying to help us,” Trump told Earhardt. “I don’t know if they are going to be able to or not.”
On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence toured the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea, saying, “The era of strategic patience is over.”
“We’re going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea,” Pence said. “Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peaceably.”
At the Easter Egg Roll, Trump was asked whether he had ruled out a U.S. military strike.
“I don’t want to telegraph what I’m doing or what I’m thinking,” Trump said. “I’m not like other administrations where they say we’re going to do this in four weeks. It doesn’t work that way. We’ll see what happens. I hope things work out well. I hope there’s going to be peace, but they’ve been talking with this gentleman for a long time.”
It’s appeared “the gentleman” Trump was referring to was Kim Jong Un, but the president also seemed to conflate Kim with his father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who died in 2011. In 1994, the U.S. signed a deal meant to freeze and ultimately dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program.
“You read [Bill] Clinton’s book, and he said, ‘Oh, we made such a great peace deal,’ and it was a joke,” Trump said. “You look at different things over the years with President Obama. Everybody has been outplayed. They’ve all been outplayed by this gentleman, and we’ll see what happens. I just don’t telegraph my moves.”
— Yahoo News Chief Washington Correspondent Olivier Knox contributed reporting.
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