Politics

In unusual move, Trump summons entire Senate to White House for North Korea meeting

Staffers have suggested the location would make it easy for the President to “drop by”.

IN AN UNUSUAL step, Donald Trump has summoned the entire US Senate to the White House for a briefing on North Korea.

The move has prompted questions from politicians and left some of their staff mystified, according to reports in the US.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed in his daily briefing that all 100 senators were being asked to a briefing by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and other officials.

President Trump Signs H.J. Res. 38 - Washington
Trump with US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.


Source: Sachs Ron/CNP/ABACA

Congressional aides said the briefing was originally scheduled for the Capitol, but that the President suggested a change, according to Reuters. It’s unusual for the entire Senate to go to the White House, and more typical for administration officials to go to Capitol Hill.

Staffers suggested to the Washington Post that the briefing’s proximity to the President might make it easy for him to “drop by”.

The administration has scheduled a week of high-profile events in the run up to his 100th day in office on Saturday – and a photo of the President meeting with senators would help burnish his image on national security issues.

Firing drill 

Separately, North Korea marked a military anniversary with a conventional firing drill today, according to reports, as the South announced joint naval exercises with a US aircraft carrier.

Speculation had mounted that Pyongyang could carry out a sixth nuclear test or another missile launch to mark 85 years since the founding of its army.

But no such event – which usually happens in the morning – had taken place by noon, and Seoul’s defence ministry said “no unusual development had been detected”.

Instead the South’s Yonhap news agency cited an unnamed government source saying Pyongyang marked the anniversary with its “largest ever firing drill”, carried out in the eastern port city of Wonsan and presumed to have been overseen by leader Kim Jong-Un.

North Korea has ambitions to build a missile capable of reaching the US mainland and tensions have soared in recent months as it carried out a string of missile tests that sparked tit-for-tat sabre-rattling between it and Washington.

Pyongyang’s rhetoric always intensifies in the spring, when Seoul and Washington hold joint military drills it sees as rehearsals for an invasion.

The North’s Rodong Sinmun – the official mouthpiece of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea – warned today of dire consequences in the event of a US-led pre-emptive strike.

It promised “the most brutal punishment… in the sky and land as well as at sea and from underwater without any warning or prior notice”.

North Korea launched two missile tests this month while US President Donald Trump and his senior aides have warned that “all options are on the table”.

UN Security Council 

Trump yesterday urged the UN Security Council to consider stronger sanctions against Pyongyang.

Washington has sent the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to the Korean peninsula, where it is expected to arrive – after a derision-provoking delay – later this week.

The vessel will take part in joint naval drills with the South’s forces to “demonstrate Seoul and Washington’s strong determination to punish North Korean provocations”, the South Korean Navy said in a statement.

They will take place in the East Sea, the South’s name for the Sea of Japan, it said, and the two allies will also begin joint naval exercises in the West Sea on today “in relation to the current security situation”.

The nuclear-powered US submarine USS Michigan also made a port call to the South’s Busan today in another show of force.

Trump has said the US was sending an “armada” to the Korean peninsula, including submarines.

The USS Michigan is built to carry submarine-launched ballistic missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles capable of making precision strikes against the North’s nuclear facilities, Yonhap said.

But the South Korean Navy called the vessel’s visit “routine”, adding it would not take part in any joint exercises.

Includes reporting from © AFP 2017