Missiles of Mar-a-Lago: Message to Russia, China, North Korea?

In this Department of Defense photo, a Tomahawk missile is fired from either. the U.S.S. Porter or the U.S.S. Ross toward an airbase in Syria.

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump‘s decision to launch missile strikes against an air base in Syria on Thursday night came amid stepped-up criticism of Russia by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The missiles —- retaliation for President Bashar al-Assad‘s use of chemical weapons — began landing on the Shayrat Air Base while Trump was dining at Mar-a-Lago with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Russia criticized the U.S. action as “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law” and suspended its cooperation with the U.S. on information about flights above Syria.

Tillerson, at a news conference at Palm Beach International Airport earlier Thursday, addressed Russia’s support for Assad.

“There is no doubt in our minds, and the information we have supports that Syria, the Syrian regime under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad, are responsible for this attack. And further, I think it is very important that the Russian government consider carefully their continued support for the Assad regime,” Tillerson said.

After the strikes, Tillerson was more blunt in criticizing Russia, which brokered a 2013 deal in which Assad pledged to destroy his chemical weapons. The U.S. — after former President Barack Obama‘s infamous “red line” declaration —  then opted not to take military action against the Assad regime.

“Russia would locate these weapons, secure these weapons and destroy the weapons. They would act as the guarantor,” Tillerson said of the 2013 deal.

“Clearly Russia has failed in its responsibility,” Tillerson said. “Either Russia has been complicit or either Russia has been simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on its end of that agreement.”

The missile strikes might also be seen as a statement to China and North Korea about U.S. resolve.

As Trump meets with Xi, one of his stated goals is to get China to exert its influence to constrain North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. If China doesn’t help, Trump told The Financial Times in a recent interview, the U.S. is prepared to act unilaterally.

“Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you,” Trump said in The Financial Times interview.

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