Hours after saying U.S. military options regarding North Korea were “locked and loaded,” President Trump on Friday warned that country’s leader would “regret it fast” if he made any threats against the United States.
“If he utters one threat, in the form of an overt threat — which, by the way he has been uttering for years, and his family has been uttering for years — or 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 said at his New Jersey golf resort.
And Trump distanced himself from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comment earlier in the day that she did not “see a military solution to this conflict.”
“Let her speak for Germany,” Trump said. “Perhaps she is referring to Germany. She’s certainly not referring to the United States, that I can tell you.”
Trump’s reference to possible U.S. action in the event of a threat from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un marked a shift from his remarks just a few hours earlier, when he said American would respond should Pyongyang “act unwisely.” All week long, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have said U.S. actions would come in response to North Korean actions — not the incendiary threats that the repressive regime has made on a routine basis for decades.
The president also dismissed criticisms that his fiery rhetoric has escalated the first serious international confrontation of his barely 200-day-old administration.
“My critics are only saying that because it’s me,” he said. “If somebody else uttered the exact same words that I uttered, they’d say, ‘What a great statement, what a wonderful statement.’”
Earlier in the day, Trump warned on Twitter that “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
It was not clear exactly what sort of “military solutions” Trump was referring to or what precisely would constitute unwise action by the North Korean leader.
Asked at his afternoon event to elaborate on the tweet, Trump declined to offer specifics. “I think it’s pretty obvious. We are looking at that very carefully and I hope they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said, and what I said is what I mean,” he said.
North Korea had said on Thursday it was putting together a plan to fire four missiles in the direction of the U.S. territory of Guam, a Pacific island that is home to large American military installations.
Trump’s warning came a day after Mattis told reporters in Silicon Valley that the U.S. effort to “get this under control” was “diplomatically led,” “gaining traction,” and “gaining diplomatic results.”
Mattis emphasized that he wanted to “stay right there right now” and warned that the cost of conflict could be “catastrophic,” but also that when it comes to the U.S. military, “We are ready.”
Tensions have steadily escalated since July, when North Korea fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles — tests that showed its rockets could reach U.S. soil, according to U.S. intelligence officials. The United States responded by rallying an unusual 15-0 United Nations Security Council vote in favor of a package of tough new economic sanctions on the regime. This week, news outlets have reported that American intelligence confirmed a finding by Japan’s defense ministry that North Korea has likely developed warheads small enough to fit on its missiles.
Trump, speaking to reporters at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club, bluntly declared: “This man will not get away with what he’s doing, believe me.”
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