Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea ratcheted up on Friday, as President Donald Trump doubled down on military threats.
“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” Trump tweeted Friday morning. “Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
Moments later, he retweeted a message from the U.S. Pacific Command’s official Twitter account, stating that “#USAF B-1B Lancer #bombers on Guam stand ready to fulfill USFK’s #FightTonight mission if called upon to do so.”
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
— U.S. Pacific Command (@PacificCommand) August 11, 2017
The U.S. military in the region surrounding the Korean Peninsula always remains prepared with both defensive and offensive capabilities, should North Korea launch an attack. “Ready to fight tonight,” is their motto.
Hours earlier, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency slammed the White House as “warmongers” who “are unaware of the fact that even a single shell dropped on the Korean Peninsula might lead to the outbreak of a new world war, a thermonuclear war.”
“We consider the U.S. no more than a lump which we can beat to a jelly any time,” Pyongyang said in its statement.
Trump’s latest tweets also came not long after a Chinese state-run newspaper said 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 U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.
The comments from the influential Global Times came after Trump stepped up his rhetoric on Thursday against North Korea, saying his earlier threat to unleash “fire and fury” on Pyongyang if it launched an attack may not have been tough enough.
China, North Korea’s most important ally and trading partner, has reiterated calls for calm during the current crisis. Beijing has expressed frustration with both Pyongyang’s repeated nuclear and missile tests and with behavior from South Korea and the U.S., such as military drills, that it sees as increasing tensions.
“China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” the Global Times, which is widely read but does not represent government policy, said in an editorial.
“If the U.S. 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.
The Kremlin weighed in on Friday, too, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the rhetoric from Washington and Pyongyang was “going over the top.”
A day earlier, KCNA, the North Korean news agency, said its army would complete plans in mid-August to fire four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land near Guam.
Trump said earlier this week Kim was not going to get away with his “horrific” comments and disrespecting America.
“Let’s see what he does with Guam. He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody’s seen before, what will happen in North Korea,” Trump told reporters from the steps of his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., on Thursday.
He also said his previous promise of “fire and fury” in response to threats from North Korea may have not gone far enough, vowing “trouble” for the country if its actions don’t change. “If anything, maybe that statement [about “fire and fury”] wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said Thursday.
Shortly after Trump spoke Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters the United States still preferred a diplomatic approach to the North Korean threat and that a war would be “catastrophic.”
On Friday, the Associated Press reported that a senior U.S. diplomat had been engaged in regular back-channel contact with a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s U.N. mission for several months and that the talks continued following the release of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died shortly after returning to the U.S.
But a State Department official later played down the possibility of diplomacy with Pyongyang.
“Now is not the opportunity for dialogue,” Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia W. Patrick Murphy said.
“Dialogue is not something to be negotiated. Standing down on the pursuit of dangerous missiles and nuclear programs in defiance of the international community, in defiance of the Security Council resolutions is what is at stake here,” he said.