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Gen. Dunford Visits Asia Amid Heightened Tensions With North Korea


The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, is in China today at a time of heightened tensions with North Korea. Dunford's visit follows an exchange of threats over the weekend between President Trump and North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: This is Dunford's first visit to China as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The first leg of his Asia trip brought him to Seoul, South Korea, yesterday. His remarks there were a far cry from President Trump's comments over the weekend threatening North Korea with unprecedented fire and fury. Dunford said, U.S. military might is aimed at enabling and supporting diplomacy, not replacing it.


JOSEPH DUNFORD: Our job is to make sure that our leadership - both the Korean leadership and the U.S. leadership - have viable military options in the event that deterrence fails. And that's what we're going to deliver.

KUHN: Ahead of Dunford's arrival here on Monday, China announced it was tightening United Nations sanctions on North Korea by banning imports of coal, iron, seafood and other items. But Chu Yin, an international relations expert at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, says not even the toughest sanctions or the smartest diplomacy will work now, especially with North Korea on the brink of being able to threaten the continental U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile.

CHU YIN: (Speaking Chinese).

KUHN: "It might've worked five or 10 years ago but not now," he says. "They're one step away. No country would give up now. To North Korea, this is an historic opportunity."

North Korean state media reported Monday that the military delivered a plan to leader Kim Jong Un to test-fire missiles into the waters around the U.S. territory of Guam in the South Pacific. But the report quoted Kim as saying he would observe, as he put it, the stupid conduct of the Yankees, for a while longer before ordering that missile test. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.


Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
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