Trump warns U.S. ‘locked and loaded’ for North Korea threat

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump says his crit­ics are only com­plain­ing about his tough rhetoric on North Korea “be­cause it’s me.”

He says his grave threats aimed at the com­mu­nist coun­try’s leader, Kim Jong Un, would be wel­comed as “a great state­ment” if “some­body else” ut­tered them.

Trump added that mil­lions of Amer­i­cans sup­port his words be­cause “fi­nally we have a pres­i­dent that’s stick­ing up for our na­tion and frankly stick­ing up for our friends and our al­lies.”

Trump also said says North Korea’s leader will “re­gret it fast” if he threat­ens or acts against Guam, or any other U.S. ter­ri­tory or ally.

Those com­ments fol­lowed state­ments ear­lier Fri­day where Trump again de­liv­ered a bold warn­ing to North Korea, tweet­ing that the U.S. mil­i­tary is “locked and loaded” if the iso­lated rogue na­tion acts “un­wisely,” es­ca­lat­ing an ex­change of threats be­tween the nu­clear-armed na­tions.

Amer­i­can and South Korean of­fi­cials said they would move for­ward with large-scale mil­i­tary ex­er­cises later this month that North Korea claims are a re­hearsal for war. Py­ongyang has laid out plans to strike near the U.S. ter­ri­tory of Guam.

Trump tweeted Fri­day: “Mil­i­tary solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act un­wisely. Hope­fully Kim Jong Un will find an­other path!”

He later retweeted a post­ing from U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand that showed B-1B Lancer bomber planes on Guam that “stand ready to ful­fil USFK’s #FightTonight mis­sion if called upon to do so.” ‘‘Fight tonight” has long been the motto of U.S. forces in South Korea to show they are al­ways ready for com­bat on the Korean Penin­sula.

Trump’s provoca­tive pub­lic dec­la­ra­tions, a break from the care­ful lan­guage of his pre­de­ces­sors, have only grown louder as the week as gone on. They in­cluded the pres­i­dent mus­ing that his ini­tial warn­ing of de­liv­er­ing “fire and fury” to North Korea — which ap­peared to evoke a nu­clear ex­plo­sion — was too timid. The days of war rhetoric have alarmed in­ter­na­tional lead­ers.

“I don’t see a mil­i­tary so­lu­tion and I don’t think it’s called for,” said Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel. She de­clined to say whether Ger­many would stand with the U.S. in case of a mil­i­tary con­flict with North Korea and called on the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to con­tinue to ad­dress the is­sue.

“I think es­ca­lat­ing the rhetoric is the wrong an­swer,” Merkel added.

Rus­sia’s for­eign min­is­ter, Sergey Lavrov, es­ti­mated the risk of a mil­i­tary con­flict be­tween the U.S. and North Korea as “very high,” and said Moscow was deeply con­cerned.

“When you get close to the point of a fight, the one who is stronger and wiser should be the first to step back from the brink,” Lavrov said Fri­day.

Trump’s blus­ter, how­ever, stands in stark con­trast to an on­go­ing back chan­nel for ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the United States and North Korea, which came to light Fri­day. It had been known the two sides had dis­cus­sions to se­cure the June re­lease of an Amer­i­can univer­sity stu­dent. But it wasn’t known un­til now that the con­tacts have con­tin­ued, or that they have broached mat­ters other than U.S. de­tainees.

Peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the con­tacts say the in­ter­ac­tions have done noth­ing thus far to quell ten­sions over North Korea’s nu­clear weapons and mis­sile ad­vances, which are now fu­el­ing fears of mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion.

But they say the be­hind-thescenes dis­cus­sions could still be a foun­da­tion for more se­ri­ous ne­go­ti­a­tion.

AP PHOTO

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ges­tures as he an­swers a ques­tion re­gard­ing the on­go­ing sit­u­a­tion in North Korea, Fri­day at Trump Na­tional Golf Club in Bed­min­ster, N.J.

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