Pres­i­dent re­sponds af­ter N. Korea re­veals plans to strike US base in Guam

New Straits Times - - World -

PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump yes­ter­day ratch­eted up his war of words with North Korea, declar­ing that Amer­ica’s nu­clear ar­se­nal was “more pow­er­ful than ever” — even as his team in­sisted there was no im­mi­nent threat of danger.

Hours af­ter putting Py­ongyang on no­tice that it faced “fire and fury” over its weapons and bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grammes, Trump took to Twit­ter to is­sue an­other stark warn­ing.

But af­ter North Korea said it was con­sid­er­ing a mis­sile strike near the United States Pa­cific ter­ri­tory of Guam, Trump’s top diplo­mat de­liv­ered a mes­sage of re­as­sur­ance to its res­i­dents and military per­son­nel as he made a stop-over on the is­land.

Trump’s “fire and fury” com­ments on Tues­day had trig­gered ex­pres­sions of con­cern from China, as well as from US al­lies.

Yes­ter­day, stock mar­kets and the dol­lar slipped as in­vestors sought safe-haven in­vest­ments.

Trump’s morn­ing tweets — writ­ten from New Jer­sey, where he is on va­ca­tion for two weeks — did lit­tle to calm frayed nerves.

“My first or­der as pres­i­dent was to ren­o­vate and mod­ernise our nu­clear ar­se­nal. It is now far stronger and more pow­er­ful than ever be­fore,” 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!”

Trump’s lan­guage to­wards North Korea has be­come in­creas­ingly hard-edged since Py­ongyang car­ried out a pair of suc­cess­ful in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests last month, which put the US main­land in range for the first time.

Guam — a 544 sq km dot in the Pa­cific that is home to some 6,000 US troops — would be a far eas­ier target if North Korea were to con­firm its po­si­tion as a ful­lyfledged nu­clear power.

Py­ongyang’s KCNA state news agency re­ported that plans were be­ing drawn up for mis­sile strikes against Guam that could be put into ac­tion at “any mo­ment” af­ter North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gives the or­der.

US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, who re­fu­elled in Guam yes­ter­day while fly­ing back home from South­east Asia, said Trump was de­ter­mined to send an un­equiv­o­cal mes­sage to his North Korean coun­ter­part.

“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.”

Tiller­son, how­ever, said he did not be­lieve “there is any im­mi­nent threat” to Guam or other US tar­gets and hoped that di­plo­matic pres­sure would pre­vail.

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

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.

France, mean­while, praised Trump’s “de­ter­mi­na­tion” in stand­ing up to Py­ongyang.

Re­pub­li­can Se­na­tor John McCain said 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.” AFP

Don­ald Trump

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