U.S. military is ‘locked and loaded’ on North Korea
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President Donald Trump issued a new threat to North Korea on Friday, saying the U.S. military was “locked and loaded” as Pyongyang accused him of driving the Korean Peninsula to the brink of nuclear war.
Mr. Trump kept up the war of words on Twitter shortly after the North Korean state news agency, KCNA, put out a statement blaming him for the escalated tensions.
“Trump is driving the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war, making such outcries as ‘the U.S. will not rule out a war against the DPRK,’” KCNA said.
President Trump, who is vacationing at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort, described American military readiness in stark terms. “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” he wrote on Twitter. “Hopefully Kim Jong-un will find another path!”
Mr. Trump maintained pressure on the North after a week of incendiary rhetoric, including his warning on Tuesday that the U.S. would unleash “fire and fury” on Pyongyang if it continued to issue threats.
U.S. allies in the region reacted with alarm to the unusual response from Washington and senior U.S. officials scrambled to play down his comments.
Still, Mr. Trump amplified the warning on Thursday, saying maybe his “fire and fury” threat “wasn’t tough enough”. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis later tempered Mr. Trump's harsh words, saying the U.S. still preferred a diplomatic approach to the North Korean threat. A war would be “catastrophic,” he said.
Asked if the U.S. was prepared to handle a hostile act by North Korea, Mr. Mattis said: “We are ready.”
As of late Thursday, two U.S. officials said the threat with regards to North Korea had not changed, additional assets were not being moved into the region and intelligence did not show indications of North Korea preparing a missile launch.
Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford left Washington on Thursday to visit Japan, China and South Korea. While the trip has been long planned, the issue of North Korea is likely to be a priority, officials said.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials said Friday they plan to move ahead with large-scale U.S.-South Korea exercises later this month that North Korea, now finalizing plans to launch a salvo of missiles toward Guam, claims are a rehearsal for war.
The exercises are an annual event, but come as Pyongyang says it is readying a plan to fire off four Hwasong-12 missiles toward Guam, a tiny island which is U.S. territory and major military hub. Called Ulchi—Freedom Guardian, the exercises are expected to run from Aug. 21—31 and involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops on the ground and in the sea and air.
Mr. Trump said 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,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Thursday in New Jersey, without offering specifics.