President Trump on Friday offered a fresh threat of force against North Korea, writing on Twitter that “military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded,” if the regime of Kim Jong Un should “act unwisely.”
“Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!” Trump added in reference to North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons despite increased United Nations sanctions.
North Korea, however, kept up its verbal salvos, as well. A commentary in a state-run newspaper said the “U.S. military warmongers are running amok” and warned that the “the U.S. and its vassal forces will dearly pay for the harshest sanctions and pressure and reckless military provocations.”
Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2017
In the Pacific region and around the world, concern mounted with the intensification of rhetoric from both sides. That included a caution from German Chancellor Angela Merkel that “verbal escalation” may be the wrong response to the crisis, Deutsche Welle reported.
Trump’s latest verbal volley came a day after he warned North Korea that “things will happen to them like they never thought possible” should the isolated country attack the United States or its allies.
Trump also told reporters that his threat of “fire and fury” on Tuesday may not have been “tough enough,” even as he sought to reassure an anxious world that he has the situation under control.
The ratcheted-up talk by Trump — which some U.S. leaders and allies have criticized — comes as North Korea has stepped up its threats against the United States, including warning of a potential missile launch landing near the U.S. territory of Guam.
Later Friday morning, Trump retweeted images from the U.S. Pacific Command that showed two Air Force B-1B bombers that it said had joined counterparts from the South Korean and Japanese air forces in the region.
— U.S. Pacific Command (@PacificCommand) August 11, 2017
Trump’s tweets and statements to reporters this week have come from Bedminster, N.J., where he is on what the White House called a working vacation at his private golf club.
Amid the tensions, Trump has scheduled a 5 p.m. meeting in Bedminster with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
The State Department said Tillerson would “de-brief” the president on his recent trip to Asia.
While neither Tillerson nor Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have spoken directly about Trump’s threats, both have issued statements this week indicating that diplomacy is and should remain the centerpiece of U.S. policy toward North Korea.
Trump’s rhetoric has become considerably more bellicose in recent days.
Just this past weekend, the administration was congratulating itself for orchestrating a unanimous U.N. Security Council vote to sharply increase sanctions against Pyongyang, describing steady diplomatic and economic pressure as the keystone of its strategy.
On Thursday, however, Trump said that the administration is examining its entire military posture in Asia and that “we are preparing for many different alternative events.”
After Trump’s tweet on Friday, Merkel told reporters in Berlin that “I don’t see a military solution to this conflict.”
“I see the need for enduring work at the U.N. Security Council … as well as tight cooperation between the countries involved, especially the U.S. and China,” she said.
Germany, Merkel said, “will very intensively take part in the options for resolution that are not military, but I consider a verbal escalation to be the wrong response.” Under the charter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, all 29 members have pledged that an attack against any one of them will be considered an attack against all.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the risks of direct conflict “are very high, especially given this rhetoric, [when] direct threats of using force are being made.”
Russia, he said, was “very worried” by “talk of the need to carry out a preemptive strike at North Korea, Pyongyang’s talk of the need to strike at Guam island … this has been continual,” according to the Russian news agency Interfax.
“We don’t accept a nuclear-powered North Korea,” Lavrov said in response to questions at a youth forum, but he added that the United States should take the first step away from conflict.
“I believe when it actually comes to a fight, the one that is stronger and smarter should take the first step away from the dangerous line,” Lavrov said.
He repeated a call by Russia and China for a “double freeze,” in which Kim “freezes any nuclear tests, any ballistic missile launches, while the U.S. and South Korea freeze large-scale military exercises, which are constantly used by North Korea as an excuse to conduct tests.”
The United States has rejected such a freeze, and an annual U.S.-South Korea military exercise is scheduled to begin later this month.
In the Pacific region, U.S. allies Japan, South Korea and Australia have called for caution but said they would support the United States in the event of an attack by North Korea.
An editorial in China’s state-run Global Times said that Beijing should “prevent” the United States and South Korea from carrying out an attack designed to overthrow the North Korean government but that China should “stay neutral” in the event of a North Korean attack and U.S. retaliation.
Meanwhile, in a commentary published Friday in North Korea, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers’ Party said in typically dramatic language that “the U.S. has been seized with anxiety and terror” since North Korea conducted its second intercontinental ballistic missile test last month.
The United States is now “fearful of when weapons of Korea will shower shells on its military bases for aggression and mainland,” the paper said, accusing Trump by name of creating a “horrible atmosphere” by saying any war would be fought on the Korean Peninsula.
“That is why U.S. military warmongers are running amok, vociferating about introduction of strategic assets into the Korean peninsula and ‘preemptive attack,’” the commentary said.
“It is tragedy that the reckless and hysteric behaviors may reduce the U.S. mainland to ashes any moment,” it continued, saying that North Korea would emerge victorious from the standoff, which has lasted since the Korean War ended in an armistice in 1953.
“The U.S. and its vassal forces will dearly pay for the harshest sanctions and pressure and reckless military provocations against the DPRK,” the commentary concluded, using the official abbreviation for North Korea.
Philip Rucker and Brian Murphy in Washington and Anna Fifield in Seoul contributed to this report.
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