UNITED STATES President Donald Trump warned on Tuesday North Korea will be met with “fire and fury” should any threat be made towards the United States. His statement comes just hours prior to the North’s authoritarian regime announcing possible plans for a missile strike on the US Pacific territory of Guam.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump told reporters in New Jersey.
His remarks come amid heightened tensions between the two nations that have rattled financial markets and lead to escalating rhetorical threats being thrown from both sides.
The White House has repeatedly reiterated its willingness to use force if North Korea refuses to stop its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes. In a concerted effort to avoid conflict, the United Nations Security Council, with US’ backing, imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday.
Efforts have so far proven unfruitful, however, as the reclusive regime continues to develop a nuclear-tipped missile able to strike the US. According to an annual White Paper released by Japan’s Defence Ministry on Tuesday, the country’s nuclear weapons programme has reached a “new stage”.
“It is conceivable North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme has already considerably advanced and it is possible North Korea has achieved the miniaturisation of nuclear weapons and has acquired nuclear warheads,” the 563-page document read.
“Since last year, when it forcibly implemented two nuclear tests and more than 20 ballistic missile launches, the security threats have entered a new stage.”
In an apparent response to Trump’s provocative remarks, Pyongyang said it was “carefully examining” a plan to strike Guam, home to a US military base that includes a submarine squadron, an airbase and a Coast Guard group.
In a statement carried by state-run news agency KCNA, a Korean People’s Army spokesman said the plan would be put into practice at any moment once leader Kim Jong Un makes a decision.
North Korea also accused the US of devising a “preventive war” and said in another statement, citing a different military spokesman, any plans to execute this would be met with an “all-out war wiping out all the strongholds of enemies, including the US mainland”.
Trump’s comments have led to fractions within his own party back home in the US, with Republican Senator John McCain condemning the president for issuing threats he may not be prepared to act on.
He said in a radio interview:
“I take exception to the president’s comments because you’ve got to be sure you can do what you say you’re going to do.”
Douglas Paal, a former US diplomat who served as a White House official under previous Republican administrations, said Trump should not get into a war of words with Pyongyang.
“It strikes me as an amateurish reflection of a belief we should give as we get rhetorically. That might be satisfying at one level, but it takes us down into the mud we should let Pyongyang enjoy alone,” he said.
Additional reporting by Reuters