Alarm from world powers as Trump warns US military is 'locked and loaded'
President Donald Trump issued a new threat to North Korea on Friday, saying the US military was "locked and loaded", as Pyongyang accused him of driving the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war and world powers expressed alarm.
The Pentagon said the United States and South Korea would proceed as planned with a joint military exercise in 10 days, an action sure to further antagonise North Korea.
China, Russia and Germany voiced dismay at the war of words between Pyongyang and Washington. Trump, who has pressed China to help rein in its ally North Korea, said he would speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday night.
In their telephone call, Xi told Trump the North Korean nuclear issue required a peaceful resolution through talks, and urged the "relevant side" to exercise restraint, avoiding words or action that raise tension, China's state media said.
Trump, vacationing at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort, again referred to North Korea's leader in his latest bellicose remarks.
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
Asked later by reporters to explain the remark, Trump said: "Those words are very, very easy to understand."
Again referring to Kim, Trump added, "If he utters one threat ... or if he does anything with respect to Guam or any place else that's an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast."
In remarks to reporters after a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Trump said the situation with North Korea was "very dangerous and it will not continue.
"We will see what happens. We think that lots of good things could happen, and we could also have a bad solution," he said.
Despite the tough rhetoric, Trump insisted that "nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump".
Trump said he thought US allies South Korea and Japan were "very happy" with how he was handling the confrontation.
The president, a wealthy businessman and former reality television personality, sent his tweet after North Korean state news agency, KCNA, said in a statement that "Trump is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war."
On Thursday (Friday NZT), Trump cautioned 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 previous day's threat of "fire and fury" may not have been "tough enough," even as he sought to reassure an anxious world that he has the situation under control.
US Defence Secretary James Mattis tempered Trump's harsh words later by telling reporters the United States still preferred a diplomatic approach to the North Korean threat. A war would be "catastrophic," he said.
Asked if the United States was ready if North Korea committed a hostile act, he said: "We are ready."
Tension in the region has risen since the reclusive North staged two nuclear bomb tests last year and launched two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July in defiance of world powers. Trump has said he would not allow Pyongyang to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States.
As incendiary rhetoric in Pyongyang and Washington flared this week, a Chinese state-run newspaper said on Friday that China should remain neutral if North Korea launches an attack that threatens the United States, sounding a warning for Pyongyang over its plans to fire missiles near the US Pacific territory of Guam.
China, North Korea's most important ally and trading partner, has reiterated calls for calm. Beijing has expressed frustration with both Pyongyang's repeated nuclear and missile tests and with behaviour from South Korea and the United States, such as military drills, that it sees as increasing tensions.
"China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral," the Global Times, which is widely read but does not represent government policy, said in an editorial.
"If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so," it said.
North Korea's KCNA said its army would complete plans in mid-August to fire four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land near Guam.
- The Washington Post, Reuters