President Trump talked tough on North Korea in an interview with the Financial Times, his language setting the stage for Friday's meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The Voice of America reports that one line of thought is that Trump may be willing to offer Beijing incentives on a range of trade and security issues in exchange for help with the North. Meanwhile, a flurry of North Korean developments were making headlines:
- The highest-ranking North Korean defector in recent decades has a stark warning about Kim Jong Un: "Once he sees that there is any kind of sign of a tank or an imminent threat from America, then he would use his nuclear weapons," Thae Young Ho, who bolted in 2016, tells NBC News.
- A story in the New York Times suggests that it might be too late to prevent Pyongyang from joining the ranks of advanced nuclear powers. It points to the discovery of a classified ad, traced to North Korea, offering the sale of 22 pounds of lithium 6 per month; lithium 6 is needed to make a hydrogen bomb, and the ad suggests the North has excess supplies.
- A blogger at Forbes thinks the Times might be overstating the importance of that classified ad. It is far from proof of nuclear strength in the North, he writes.
- In his Financial Times interview, Trump said the US is prepared to act alone against the North if China is unwilling to help. What might that mean? CNN takes a look. In addition to sanctions and military action, there's the provocative idea of engagement—talking directly to Kim, which Trump as a candidate floated as an idea during the campaign.
- An analysis by the AP digs into the context of Trump's answers. Any solo solution would have to be "pretty clever," given the possibility of antagonizing not just the North and China, but Russia as well.
- There's lots of chatter about heightened activity at a nuclear site in the North, suggesting that another test is imminent, but the 38 North blog assesses satellite photos and throws some cold water on the theory.
- The world will be able to challenge North Korea in a different way next year: South Korea is hosting the Winter Olympics and says the North is welcome, reports Sky News. (The welcome was necessary because the two nations technically remain in a state of war.)