What's Your Point? - Charlottesville, North Korea

Your panelists this week include Bob Price - associate editor for Breitbart Texas, longtime Super Neighborhood leader Tomaro Bell, educator and Chicano activist Tony Diaz, Majic 102.1 Sunday Morning Live radio show host Marcus Davis, political consultant Wayne Dolcefino and Republican strategist Jessica Colon join host Greg Groogan for a lively discussion about the violent white nationalist rally and counterprotests in Charlottesville, Virginia, as well as the ongoing nuclear war rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea.


President Donald Trump blamed "many sides" for violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the wake of a white nationalist demonstration, drawing swift reactions.

Democrats and some Republicans called on him to specifically denounce white supremacy and racially motivated hate by name. Vice President Mike Pence supported the president's speech. A white supremacist website praised the comments.

What Trump said:

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides," Trump said. "It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It's been going on for a long, long time."

What others are saying:

- "I'm not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you're seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president." - Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer, a Democrat.

- "Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism." - Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., on Twitter.

- "Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists" - Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Twitter.

- "@POTUS needs to speak out against the poisonous resurgence of white supremacy. There are not "many sides" here, just right and wrong." - Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., on Twitter.

- "As @POTUS Trump said, "We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation... & true affection for each other." #Charlottesville" - Vice President Mike Pence on Twitter.

- "There is only one side. #charlottesville" - Former Vice President Joe Biden on Twitter.

- "Even as we protect free speech and assembly, we must condemn hatred, violence and white supremacy." - Former President Bill Clinton on Twitter.

- "The violence, chaos, and apparent loss of life in Charlottesville is not the fault of "many sides." It is racists and white supremacists." - Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat.

- "We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville. Everyone in leadership must speak out." - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican and Trump supporter.

- "We should call evil by its name. My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home. -OGH" - Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on Twitter.

- "We must ALL condemn domestic terror & stand together against racism, hate and evils that if left unchecked will tear us apart #Charlottesville - Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., on Twitter.

- "White supremacists, Neo-Nazis and anti-Semites are the antithesis of our American values. There are no other "sides" to hatred and bigotry." - Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., on Twitter.

- "The President's talk of violence 'on many sides' ignores the shameful reality of white supremacism in our country today, and continues a disturbing pattern of complacency around such acts of hate." - House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

- "Trump comments were good. He didn't attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. ... No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him." - Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website promoting the Charlottesville demonstration as part of its Summer of Hate edition.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


By ERIC TALMADGE 
Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea's announcement that it is finalizing a plan to launch four ballistic missiles over Japan toward the island of Guam has touched off a series of fiery threats from President Donald Trump and upped tensions between Pyongyang and Washington to a whole new level.

So are we all headed toward war?

If past precedent is any guide, the answer is no. Though it has been mostly lost as the current round of tough talk keeps escalating, North Korea just a few months ago conducted a similar rehearsal strike on a U.S. military base in Japan. And that missile test led to nary a tweet from Trump.

For sure, if Pyongyang were to go through with its planned launch of missiles toward Guam, it would be an extremely provocative move. But it is also one that the U.S. military has been watching develop for years, with fairly well-defined steps that have led to an ever more complicated and potentially dangerous situation - but not the outbreak of a nuclear war.

A look at what Pyongyang is up to, and how we got here:

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SETTING THE STAGE

In March, at around the time of the biggest annual maneuvers between the U.S. and South Korea, the North fired four extended-range Scud missiles into waters off the Japanese coast in what was intended to be a mock attack on Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni.

Iwakuni is one of the main U.S. bases in Japan and was the staging point for F-35 stealth fighters believed to be training for precision strikes on North Korea against Kim Jong Un and his top lieutenants.

The March missile launch was not as bold as the plan for Guam - the North didn't tell the world beforehand and deliberately sent the missiles much farther north than the base itself, an easy tweak. But the move sent a strong message that such an attack would be possible.

The public response from Trump then was muted. Nearly two weeks after the launch, he tweeted, without mentioning the missile test: "North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been 'playing' the United States for years. China has done little to help!"

Pyongyang, possibly emboldened by that and its two successful intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July, appears to be hoping to send an even stronger message for Trump to back off with its Guam plan, or maybe consider direct talks rather than military action.

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GIVING NOTICE

The biggest departure from North Korea's established pattern this time around was its decision to announce the details of the Guam plan.

Despite some frightened misinterpretations otherwise, it is not threatening to actually attack Guam. But if it does launch Hwasong-12 missiles to within 30-40 kilometers (18-24 miles) of the U.S. territory's shores, its stated goal, it would by any measure be an exceptionally provocative move.

That helps explain why it would decide to give prior notice. To keep the situation from getting too much out of control, it needed to explain itself on the record to defuse complaints from China and make sure Washington knew it wasn't the opening volley of a Korean War 2.0.

The concern over China's reaction is important.

China is the North's key trading partner and, although neither trusts the other very much, its biggest political buffer against pressure from Washington and its allies. Beijing, which is concerned about the implications for its own security that a nuclear North Korea poses, is almost certainly letting Pyongyang know of its concerns. Pointing to U.S. threats on Guam serves to rebut Chinese complaints, at least a bit.

But it could also use another familiar rationale.

North Korea sees annual U.S.-South Korea military exercises as a prelude for an invasion. The next big ones are set to start, on schedule, on Aug. 21. North Korean state media reports suggest Kim Jong Un could potentially sign off on the plan at about that same time.

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PULLING THE TRIGGER?

Pyongyang has explicitly and repeatedly stated its anger over U.S. B-1B bombers based in Guam conducting flyovers of the Korean Peninsula.

It could use the next one to justify sending its missiles toward Guam as something of a counter-display.

The B-1B bomber flights, though largely symbolic, are especially sensitive to Pyongyang because they represent a serious threat that North Korea's air defenses can't confidently protect against. Trump played that up on Friday by retweeting a U.S. Pacific Command tweet saying the bombers on Guam are ready to fulfill their "Fight Tonight" mission if called upon.

But there is also a lot of history here. The U.S. devastated most of North Korea's cities and infrastructure with a massive bombing campaign during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, in California, noted the link but cautioned that the North might want to conduct the launch with or without a B-1B flight to justify it.

"If we do stop flying bombers at them for a while, they can declare victory and go home, and then decide whether to do it at some later date in response to whatever," he said. "Whether they feel genuinely annoyed and threatened or simply see this as a way to justify more missile tests to the Chinese is a fair question."

"It certainly does make a statement," Pollack added. "Two can play at this game now."

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Eric Talmadge is the AP's Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter at EricTalmadge and Instagram @erictalmadge

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