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Long IslandPolitics

North Korea crosses line; Allies stage show of force

President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump,

President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, speaks at the Fourth of July picnic for military families at the White House, on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Alex Brandon

Latest fireworks display

The U.S. and South Korea responded to North Korea's ICBM launch with a ballistic missile drill, it was reported early Wednesday.

A grim warning came from the two allies that self-restraint was "all that separated armistice and war" and could be changed at any time.

It would be a "grave mistake" for the North to think otherwise, they said.

Trump soon issued one of his peculiar messages on Twitter that will inevitably demand fact-checking as well as interpretation: "Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us - but we had to give it a try!"

Rocket’s red glare

As Donald Trump tweets go, the warning he sent out to North Korea on Jan. 2 while president-elect stood out for its clarity.

“North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!”

It happened — at least the missile part, if not a matching warhead, too. Experts analyzing North Korea’s latest missile test conclude it was Kim Jong Un’s first successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, The Washington Post reported. The potential range of 4,000 miles means it could have reached any part of Alaska.

Muddled, at first 

Trump’s initial response, via Twitter, was anything but clear. It included an odd tone of annoyance: “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” Trump concluded vaguely: “Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

Pinning hopes on China hasn’t helped so far. But other options for stopping North Korea’s nuclear development carry high risks of failure or catastrophe.

A cool-down plan

China and Russia made a joint proposal to de-escalate tensions.

It calls on North Korea to suspend its ballistic missile program, and the United States and South Korea to refrain from large-scale military exercises, both moves aimed at paving the way for multilateral talks as a prelude to negotiations.

The statement followed talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. They and Trump will be attending the G-20 summit in Germany later this week.

Together again for first time

The planned Trump-Putin get-together at the G-20 has been upgraded to a formal sit-down session on Friday.

It will be Trump’s first real meeting with the Russian leader, as opposed to the ones he made up, such as in 2013 when he said on David Letterman’s TV show that he “met him once” (video clip here) and when he told MSNBC about their “relationship.” (Video clip here.) By last year, he said he’d never met Putin and “never spoken to him.”

The take-away: Just saying no

The refusals around the country to comply with a demand from Trump’s election integrity commission for voters’ personal data is the latest example of state and local governments defying this White House.

Other fault lines have emerged over “sanctuary cities,” new proposals for Medicaid funding distribution, adherence to the Paris climate accord and certain crime policies. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.

All pumped up

Trump cheered via Twitter Tuesday that “Gas prices are the lowest in the U.S. in over ten years!” and “I would like to see them go even lower.”

That might mean a U-turn from comments he made in May that he was open to raising the federal gasoline tax to fund infrastructure development.

What else is happening

  • An anti-Obamacare pitch backfired on the Indiana GOP, which asked on Facebook for current-law "horror" stories but received many positive ones.  
  • Trump welcomed military families to the White House on Independence Day for a picnic and fireworks show after returning from an outing to his golf property in Virginia.
  • Also annoyed by North Korea’s missile test: UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who tweeted: “Spending my 4th in meetings all day. #ThanksNorthKorea.” The U.S. has asked for an urgent Security Council meeting Wednesday.
  • A bipartisan delegation of senators visiting Afghanistan warned Trump — who is expected to boost U.S. troop levels there — that vacant embassy and State Department positions there are making it harder to address the country’s military and political crises.
  • Trump’s July Fourth tweet: A video of a Dallas church choir performing “Make America Great Again,” an original song inspired by his campaign slogan to celebrate his administration.
  • When Trump visits Poland Thursday, its government wants assurances that U.S. and NATO troops will remain there as long as the region’s security is threatened by Russia.
  • Vice President Mike Pence and his staff walk a tightrope daily to make sure Trump never doubts the loyalty of the man in line to succeed him should he have to leave office early for whatever reason, a profile by Politico says.

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