Trump: Military 'locked and loaded"
President continues to suggest he is ready to strike North Korea, which poses a nuclear threat to U.S.
President Donald Trump issued yet more provocative warnings of military action against North Korea on Friday as he continued to suggest that he was ready to strike the small, isolated Asian country that has been developing nuclear weapons capable of reaching the United States.
Trump started the morning with a Twitter message saying the U.S. military was “locked and loaded” for conflict, and then followed up in the afternoon by telling reporters that he hoped the North Koreans “fully understand the gravity of what I said.” He singled out Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, saying Kim had been allowed to destabilize the region for too long.
“This man will not get away with what he’s doing,” the president told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., where he met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley later in the day. “If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat” or takes action against the U.S. territory of Guam or against the United States’ allies, “he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast,” Trump said.
He dismissed foreign leaders, lawmakers and national security experts who have called his threats rash and even reckless.
“My critics are only saying that because it’s me,” Trump said. “If somebody uttered the exact same words that I uttered, they’d say, ‘What a great statement, what a wonderful statement.’ ”
Trump’s morning tweet said “military solutions” were ready “should North Korea act unwisely.” To reinforce the point, the president later shared a post from the U.S. Pacific Command stating that it was standing by for orders should the need arise.
“#USAF B-1B Lancer #bombers on Guam stand ready to fulfill USFK’s #FightTonight mission if called upon to do so,” the tweet said.
Trump’s comments do not necessarily indicate a specific change in military readiness or any imminent action. The motto of U.S. forces based alongside allied troops in South Korea has long been “Ready to Fight Tonight,” mainly a slogan emphasizing preparedness rather than a statement of hostility. There has been little if any sign of mobilization that might suggest preparations for a strike.
Even without nuclear weapons, North Korea has an array of conventional artillery that analysts said could lay waste to Seoul and other parts of South Korea if war were to start, yet no move has been made to begin evacuating the many thousands of American civilians living there.
Trump has spent at least part of his week playing golf, and held a meeting Friday on workforce development. Vice President Mike Pence was in Indianapolis talking about anti-crime efforts.
The Trump administration has repeatedly said its diplomatic initiative to pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program is still in its early phases, with much work remaining to be done. Tillerson has signaled that the United States is open to talks if North Korea stops the series of missile tests that have rattled the region in recent weeks.
Most importantly, the Trump administration hopes to persuade China to use its considerable influence over North Korea’s economy and political leadership to resolve the situation. Analysts say, however, that nothing is likely to happen until this fall’s Party Congress is completed. Indeed, all of China’s leadership is at the beach this weekend, so even getting calls returned in Beijing would be difficult.
Trump rearranged his schedule to return to Washington on Monday for the day, a brief break in his 17-day escape from the White House. Aides said he would hold meetings on trade and national security, but it was not clear what might come from them.
As before, Trump’s Friday morning statement did not make clear what would constitute an action that would require a U.S. military operation — would the United States take action only in retaliation for an attack by North Korea, or would it strike to stop further development of nuclear weapons?
The strident language emerging from New Jersey has set much of the world on edge.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia said his country would support the United States if it were attacked by North Korea. In a statement released after a meeting with defense officials and policy experts, Turnbull denounced North Korea’s “illegal, reckless, provocative conduct,” which he said threatened stability in the region and “put the world at risk.”
“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States,” Turnbull, who spoke with Pence this week, said in the statement.
Nikki Haley, the United Nations ambassador, looks on as President Donald Trump speaks Friday at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.