Venezuela says Trump’s threat of military intervention is ‘craziness’

US President Donald Trump on Friday threatened military intervention in Venezuela, a surprise escalation of Washington’s response to Venezuela’s political crisis that Caracas disparaged as “craziness.

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Venezuela has appeared to slide toward a more volatile stage of unrest in recent days, with anti-government forces looting weapons from a military base after a new legislative body usurped the authority of the opposition-controlled congress.

“The people are suffering and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary,” Trump told reporters in an impromptu question and answer session.

The comments appeared to shock Caracas, with Venezuela’s Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino calling the threat “an act of craziness.”

The White House said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro requested a phone call with Trump on Friday, which the White House appeared to spurn, saying in a statement that Trump would gladly speak to Venezuela’s leader when democracy was restored in that country.

0:00 Venezuela using ‘excessive force’ Share Venezuela using ‘excessive force’

Venezuelan authorities have long said US officials were planning an invasion. A former military general told Reuters earlier this year that some anti-aircraft missiles had been placed along the country’s coast for precisely that eventuality.

In Washington, the Pentagon said the US military was ready to support efforts to protect US citizens and America’s national interests, but that insinuations by Caracas of a planned US invasion were “baseless.”

Trump’s suggestion of possible military action came in a week when he has repeatedly threatened a military response if North Korea threatens the United States or its allies.

Asked if US forces would lead an operation in Venezuela, Trump declined to provide details. “We don’t talk about it but a military operation – a military option – is certainly something that we could pursue,” he said.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticised Trump’s new stance.

“Congress obviously isn’t authorising war in Venezuela,” he said in a statement. “Nicolas Maduro is a horrible human being, but Congress doesn’t vote to spill Nebraskans’ blood based on who the Executive lashes out at today.”

0:00 Pro-government Venezuelans march around capital Share Pro-government Venezuelans march around capital

The president’s comments conjured up memories of gunboat diplomacy in Latin America during the 20th century, when the United States regarded its “backyard” neighbours to the south as underlings who it could easily intimidate through conspicuous displays of military power.

Trump’s more aggressive discourse could be an asset to Maduro by boosting his credibility as a national defender.

“Maduro must be thrilled right now,” said Mark Feierstein, who was a senior aide on Venezuela matters to former US president Barack Obama. “It’s hard to imagine a more damaging thing for Trump to say.”

The United States sanctioned Maduro and other Venezuelan officials in July after Maduro established a constituent assembly run by his Socialist Party loyalists and cracked down on opposition figures. The assembly’s election drew international condemnation and critics have said it removed any remaining checks on Maduro’s power.

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Trump: North Korea will ‘truly regret’ Guam military action

President Donald Trump has warned North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un not to take any action against the US, its territories including Guam or its allies, warning he would regret such a move – and “regret it fast.

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Trump said Washington was looking “very carefully” at its military options, and that he hoped Kim had taken his words to heart in recent days.

It comes after Trump said America’s military was “locked and loaded”.

North Korea has said it is readying plans to launch missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam.

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“I hope that they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said, and what I said is what I mean,” Trump told reporters. 

“If he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast.”

Trump earlier tweeted: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

The US president’s Twitter missive ratcheted up his already bellicose rhetoric with Kim over North Korea’s weapons program, as Beijing appealed to the two leaders to dampen their fiery exchange.

0:00 Australia embroiled in North Korea and US tensions Share Australia embroiled in North Korea and US tensions

A day prior Trump had hardened his warning that Pyongyang would face “fire and fury” if it kept threatening the United States, saying maybe his tough talk “wasn’t tough enough.”

Trump also warned North Korea it should be “very, very nervous” of the consequences if it even thinks of attacking US soil, after Pyongyang said it was readying plans to launch missiles towards the Pacific territory of Guam.

Pyongyang said the scheme to target the island, a key US military outpost in the western Pacific, was intended to “signal a crucial warning” as “only absolute force” would have an effect on a US leader “bereft of reason.”

Beijing on Friday pleaded with the US and North Korea for restraint, urging the two parties “to be cautious with their words and actions.”

China has repeatedly urged a resumption of long-dormant six-party talks to peacefully resolve the crisis, but its position has been overshadowed by the emerging brinkmanship between Trump and Kim.

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Trump says US is ‘locked and loaded’

President Donald Trump issued a new threat to North Korea on Friday, saying the US military was “locked and loaded” as Pyongyang accused him of driving the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war and world powers expressed alarm.

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The Pentagon said the United States and South Korea would proceed as planned with a joint military exercise in 10 days, an action sure to further antagonise North Korea.

China, Russia and Germany voiced dismay at the war of words between Pyongyang and Washington. Trump, who has pressed China to help rein in its ally North Korea, said he would speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday night.

Trump, vacationing at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort, again referred to North Korea’s leader in his latest bellicose remarks. “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” he wrote on Twitter. “Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

The term “locked and loaded,” popularised in the 1949 war film “Sands of Iwo Jima” starring American actor John Wayne, refers to preparations for shooting a gun.

Asked later by reporters to explain the remark, Trump said: “Those words are very, very easy to understand.”

Again referring to Kim, Trump added, “If he utters one threat … or if he does anything with respect to Guam or any place else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast.”

In remarks to reporters after a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Trump said the situation with North Korea was “very dangerous and it will not continue.”

“We will see what happens. We think that lots of good things could happen, and we could also have a bad solution,” he said.

Despite the tough rhetoric, Trump insisted that “nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump.”

Trump said he thought US allies South Korea and Japan were “very happy” with how he was handling the confrontation.

The president, a wealthy businessman and former reality television personality, sent his tweet after North Korean state news agency, KCNA, said in a statement that “Trump is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war.”

Guam, the Pacific island that is a US territory, posted emergency guidelines on Friday to help residents prepare for any potential nuclear attack after a threat from North Korea to fire missiles in its vicinity.

Guam is home to a US air base, a Navy installation, a Coast Guard group and roughly 6,000 US military personnel. KCNA said on Thursday the North Korean army would complete plans in mid-August to fire four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land in the sea 30-40 km from Guam.

Trump called the governor of Guam, Eddie Baza Calvo. “We are with you a thousand per cent. You are safe,” Trump told Calvo, who posted a video of him speaking with the president on Facebook.

Federer cruises into Montreal semi-finals

Roger Federer has reached the Rogers Cup semi-finals after coming to the net early and often in a straight-sets victory over Roberto Bautista Agut on a windy day in Montreal.

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World No.3 Federer, who faces Dutchman Robin Haase in the last four, was never seriously pushed in the 6-4 6-4 win against his Spanish opponent.

In the other half of the draw, 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov has fought back from a set down to overcome Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 2-6 6-3 6-4 and become the youngest ever player to reach a Masters 1000 semi-final.

The local favourite will play fourth-seeded German Alexander Zverev after the 20-year-old accounted for South African veteran Kevin Anderson 7-5 6-4.

For Federer, it was plain sailing against Bautista Agut, who is winless in seven matches against the Swiss maestro.

“I think it pays off playing aggressive here in Montreal,” Federer said.

“Plus I feel comfortable at the net so why not spend some time up there instead of slugging it out from the baseline?”

Federer opened the second set with a break and cruised through the rest of the match, which lasted just over an hour.

With world No.2 Rafael Nadal eliminated on Thursday by Shapovalov and world No.1 Andy Murray sidelined by a rib injury, Federer has an opportunity to regain the top spot.

He would need to win the Rogers Cup and have an equal or better finish than Nadal at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati next week to become the world No.1 on August 21.

“Now that Rafa is out I know I can make big strides, especially if I was to go further than the semis here,” Federer said.

“But it’s all connected to great play.”

Federer, who leads the ATP this season with five titles – including two grand slams – improved his 2017 record to 34-2 as he bids for a 94th career trophy.

Earlier on Friday, unseeded Haase recovered from going a set down to beat Argentine Diego Schwartzman 4-6 6-3 6-3.

Saturday’s meeting with Federer will be the Dutchman’s first Masters 1000 semi-final of his career.

“I’m looking forward to a tough match because he can serve very well, and he mixes up his tactics a lot,” Federer said.

Swepson hopeful of Bangladesh Test call-up

Uncapped legspinner Mitchell Swepson admits he’s probably at the back of the selection queue for Australia’s Test tour of Bangladesh.

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But the young Queenslander, whose aggressive style has earned him the vocal endorsement of spin great Shane Warne, is doing everything possible to press his case for a subcontinent call-up.

“I’m hopeful as always,” Swepson said at the national team’s pre-tour training camp in Darwin on Saturday.

“I was added late, so you’d probably think that the other two blokes are ahead of me at the moment.

“But anything can happen.

“I’ve just got to prepare to play and if it doesn’t happen, then so be it.

“I’ll just take the experience as it comes and I’m looking forward to it.”

The 23-year-old Swepson was added last week to Australia’s 14-man squad for the two-Test series, just days after the long-running pay dispute between players and administrators was resolved.

He joins first-choice tweaker Nathan Lyon and left-arm spinner Ashton Agar, who will compete with Swepson for the opportunity to replace dumped veteran Steve O’Keefe.

Agar’s superior economy and proven ability with the bat will likely hold him in good stead when selectors decide who should partner Lyon.

But Swepson’s ability to produce genuine turn has earned plenty of fans, most notably Warne who urged selectors to fast-track his debut during the summer home series against Pakistan.

Both Swepson and Agar missed the opportunity to press their case for selection last month when the Australia A tour of South Africa was boycotted as a result of the pay dispute.

The duo were part of the squad for Australia’s tour of India in March, and Swepson said he had learned plenty despite not being selected to play.

“I picked up a few things in India just being around the squad, and being able to be at Test matches and watch how the blokes go about it,” he said.

“The last six months have been big for me and I’ve worked hard on my bowling.

“Coming back this pre-season, I was really happy with where my bowling was at and I think that was on the back of being on that Indian tour.”

The Australians are scheduled to depart for Dhaka on August 18, with the first Test to commence on August 27.