Saturday 18 August 2018

President's staff stand firm in face of high tackle on 'nuclear football'

White House chief of staff John Kelly was involved in tussle. Photo: Reuters
White House chief of staff John Kelly was involved in tussle. Photo: Reuters

Neil Connor

Donald Trump's security staff scuffled with Chinese officials over the emergency nuclear codes during a visit by the US president to Beijing, media reported.

The tussle began when a US Secret Service agent carrying a suitcase with the nuclear codes - known as the 'nuclear football' - was blocked from entering the Great Hall of the People during Mr Trump's visit to Beijing last November, news website Axios has reported.

White House chief of staff John Kelly tried to intervene and instructed the US officials to continue, Axios said, citing five unnamed sources. "We're moving in," he said. However, a second attempt by Chinese security to confront the US detail led to a short tussle.

"A Chinese security official grabbed Kelly, and Kelly shoved the man's hand off of his body," Axios said. "Then a US Secret Service agent grabbed the Chinese security official and tackled him to the ground."

The US officials eventually made their way into the Great Hall of the People and "at no point did the Chinese have the nuclear football in their possession or even touch the briefcase," Axios reported.

The suitcase is supposed to be always near the president on his travels. It is a crucial part of the process for launching a nuclear strike, and is equipped with communication tools and details of prepared war plans.

The report said Chinese officials had apologised for the incident, but state visits by other world leaders to China have previously witnessed controversies.

Last December, a South Korean photographer, covering the visit of President Moon Jae-in to China, was injured after he was beaten up by security guards.

Irish Independent

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