Trump issues new nuclear warning to North Korea

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People walk past a television screen showing US President Donald Trump at a railway station in Seoul yesterday. AFP

WASHINGTON (Agencies) – President Donald Trump said yesterday the United States’ nuclear arsenal was “more powerful than ever” in a fresh warning to North Korea over its repeated missile tests.

Hours after putting Pyongyang on notice that it faced “fire and fury” over its weapons programme, Mr Trump took to Twitter to proclaim that the US military’s nuclear capability had become stronger since he came to power.

Mr Trump’s “fire and fury” comments on Tuesday marked a sharp intensification of Washington’s rhetoric over the North’s nuclear and missile programmes, triggering expressions of concern from China as well as from US allies.

But his early morning tweets dashed hopes of a cooling of tensions.

“My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before,” Mr Trump wrote.

“Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!”

But US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson played down Mr Trump’s “fire and fury” warning yesterday, saying, “What the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong-un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language.”

Mr Tillerson, speaking to reporters before landing in Guam, said he does not believe there is an imminent threat from North Korea.

“I think Americans should sleep well at night… have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.”

The language the president used echoed that
adopted by Pyongyang in its habitual promises to turn enemies like South Korea into a “sea of flames”.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” said Mr Trump, speaking from his golf club in New Jersey.

“They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

North Korea raised the stakes just hours later, saying it was considering missile strikes near US strategic military installations on the Pacific US territory of Guam.

Once finalised, the plan could be put into action at “any moment” once leader Mr Kim made a decision, the official Korean Central News Agency quoted a military statement as saying.

The remote island of Guam – a 544 sq km dot in the Pacific – is a key US military outpost and home to some 6,000 US troops spread across facilities including Anderson Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam.

Mr Trump said Mr Kim “has been very threatening, beyond a normal state”. “As I said, they will be met with the fire and fury and, frankly, power,” he told reporters.

US officials have repeatedly said this year that military action against the North was an “option on
the table”.

Mr Trump’s comments drew a mixed response both at home and abroad.

The North’s main ally China warned against “words and actions” that would stoke tensions, while Germany said it was watching the “increasing rhetorical escalation” with concern.

But France praised Mr Trump’s “determination” in standing up to Pyongyang.

Republican US Senator John McCain said Mr Trump should tread carefully when speaking about the North, telling a US radio station, “All it’s going to do is bring us closer to some kind of serious confrontation.”

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