U.S. Keeping ‘High Levels of Readiness’ in Korea, Milley Says

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(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. military is maintaining its customary “high levels of readiness” on the Korean peninsula as a deterrent to any threats from Kim Jong Un’s regime, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

The Korean peninsula is “one of those places in the world we always maintain very high levels of readiness,” Milley told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday alongside Defense Secretary Mark Esper. “And today we have very high levels of readiness.”

Tensions have climbed on the Korean Peninsula as time runs out on Kim’s threat to take a “new path” if President Donald Trump doesn’t make him a better offer in long-stalled nuclear talks by year-end. North Korea has fired off a record number of short-range ballistic missile in recent months, and has threatened to suspend Kim’s two-year-old freeze on tests of nuclear weapons and longer-range rockets needed to carry them to the U.S. mainland.

Trump tweeted Friday that he discussed North Korea in a “very good talk” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, without giving more details.

The U.S. has maintained that it’s seeking a political solution with North Korea, even as Kim’s regime steps up its threats and missile tests. U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun on Monday urged Kim to return to negotiations, noting that the coming holiday was “one of the most sacred days on our calendar.”

Biegun, a former Ford Motor Co. executive, has since been confirmed as the next deputy secretary of state, replacing John Sullivan, who is now ambassador to Russia.

Separately, the U.S. this week moved to head off a call by China and Russia at the United Nations to ease sanctions on North Korea, with Trump saying he would “take care of” any threats the regime had in the works.

With questions about Kim’s intentions rising, North Korea ordered military officials on Dec. 18 to arrive at Pyongyang by the morning of Dec. 20, the Daily NK reported on Friday. The North Korean Workers’ Party may hold a plenary meeting of its central committee on Dec. 21 or 22, Daily NK reported.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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