North Korea has stepped up its anti-American rhetoric even more after the US strike on Syria, a country it considers a close ally. In a blistering statement issued Saturday, Pyongyang denounced the strike as " a clear and unforgivable act of aggression" that showed its decision to develop nuclear weapons "was the right choice a million times over," reports Reuters. According to North Korea's KCNA news agency, Kim Jong Un and Bashar al-Assad have exchanged promises of cooperation. In other developments:
- Syrian activists say new airstrikes have hit the town of Khan Sheikhoun, where a chemical attack Tuesday killed more than 80 people and led to US retaliation, CNN reports. Activists say the Saturday strikes killed a woman and injured at least three other people. According to monitoring groups, jets are once again taking off from the airbase the US hit with dozens of cruise missiles.
- Russia, which warned of "extremely serious consequences" after the strike, has vowed to step up Syria's air defenses and send a frigate to a Syrian base, reports the New York Times. The US accuses Russia of violating a 2013 agreement by turning a blind eye to Syria's possession of banned chemical weapons.
- The US says it will keep the pressure on Syria and strike again if necessary, the AP reports. At the United Nations on Friday, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the world is waiting for Russia "to act responsibly in Syria" and reconsider its "misplaced alliance" with Assad.
- The Pentagon is trying to get Russia to reopen a communications hotline it closed after the attack, reports the Guardian, which describes the hotline dispute as Vladimir Putin daring President Trump "to choose between attacking Assad and attacking ISIS." The communications channel was set up to reduce the risk of accidents involving US and Russian planes over Syria.
- British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has called off a trip to Russia because of the Syria situation, the BBC reports. Johnson said the UK deplores Russia's "continued defence of the Assad regime." He added that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will still travel to Moscow next week to deliver a "clear and coordinated" message to Russia.
- The Washington Post looks at what led up to Trump's decision to strike the base. Insiders say Trump—whose aides had requested more images and fewer words in daily intelligence briefings—was deeply affected by images of babies and children killed in the chemical attack. Critics including Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy accused Trump of having an "emotional reaction" instead of a strategy, though Tillerson says Trump carefully evaluated the facts before concluding "that we cannot yet again turn away, turn a blind eye from what’s happened."
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