Trump on North Korea: Maybe ‘Fire and Fury’ Comment ‘Wasn’t Tough Enough’
President Donald Trump reiterated his bellicose warning to North Korea from earlier in the week, telling reporters at his golf club in New Jersey on Thursday that his threat to bring “fire and fury” if North Korea continued to threaten the United States may not have gone far enough.
“Maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said during a lengthy exchange with reporters.
Trump said that past administrations had not done enough to take on North Korea and that it is time a president “stuck up for the country.”
At the center of the geopolitical storm is the tiny island of Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean.
It’s home to a U.S. Navy base and the Andersen Air Force Base, from which American B-1B bombers conducted sorties over the Korean peninsula Tuesday, provoking the ire of Pyongyang’s leadership and an escalating war of words between the US and North Korea.
On Thursday, North Korean state media detailed a plan to launch four intermediate-range missiles towards the territory, suggesting that it would splash the Hwasong-12 missiles into the sea less than 25 miles Guam’s coast.
Quoting a North Korean general, state media KCNA said the plan would be formalized and presented to leader Kim Jong Un by mid-August.
Trump replied to North Korea’s threat to hit Guam with a threat of his own.
“Let’s see what he does with Guam,” Trump said in apparent reference to Kim. “He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before.”
“You’ll see, you’ll see. And he’ll see,” he said.
Ahead of Trump’s latest comments, North Korean officials said that the US “would suffer a shameful defeat and final doom” if it “persists in extreme military adventure, sanctions and pressure,” according to a statement on KCNA.
The statement goes on to say that the officials “vowed to mercilessly wipe out the provocateurs making desperate efforts to stifle” North Korea.
Trump also expressed concerns that sanctions would not work against the rogue nation.
The comments came before a meeting Trump held with Vice President Mike Pence, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and newly installed White House chief of staff John Kelly.
In off-the-cuff remarks on Tuesday, Trump said: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.”
“(Kim) has been very threatening beyond a normal state,” Trump said. “They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Trump declined to rule out a preemptive strike on North Korea, saying he won’t discuss potential military options.
“We don’t talk about that. We never do. I don’t talk about it,” Trump told reporters at his golf club in New Jersey when asked about a preemptive strike. “We’ll see what happens.”
“What they’ve been doing and what they’ve been getting away with is a tragedy and it can’t be allowed,” Trump said.
All channels open
In the wide-ranging exchange with reporters, Trump said the US will “always consider negotiations” with North Korea.
Speaking to reporters in California on Thursday, Defense Secretary James Mattis declined to discuss in detail the US military’s readiness.
“I don’t tell the enemy in advance what I’m going to do,” Mattis said. “Our readiness, we are ready.”
Mattis said he recognized his responsibility to have military options available for the President, but said the current “diplomatically led” strategy has “diplomatic traction.”
“I want to stay right there,” Mattis said. “Right now, the tragedy of war is well enough known it doesn’t need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic.”
The President also sought to reassure Americans of their own safety on Thursday, even as he issued another stark warning to North Korea.
“The people of this country should be very comfortable,” Trump said. “The people of our country are safe. Our allies are safe.”