Don’t invite ‘fury,’ Trump tells N. Korea
Warning comes as regime threatens strike on Guam
BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump threatened North Korea “with fire and fury like the world has never seen” on Tuesday after reports that the communist country has mastered one of the final hurdles to being able to strike the United States with a nuclear missile.
Hours later, North Korea said it is examining its operational plans for attacking Guam — a U. S. territory about 2,100 miles away — in order to contain U.S. military activity there.
The North Korean army said in a statement distributed today by the staterun news agency that it is studying a plan to create an “enveloping fire” in areas around Guam with mediumto long-range ballistic missiles. In recent months, U.S. strategic bombers from Guam’s Anderson Air Force base have flown over Korea in a show of force.
“Will only the U.S. have option called ‘ preventive war’ as is claimed by it?” the Strategic Force of the North’s Korean People’s Army said in its statement. “It is a daydream for the U.S. to think that its mainland is an invulnerable Heavenly kingdom.”
It wasn’t clear whether Trump and the Koreans were responding directly to
each other, but the threats exchanged between the nuclear-armed nations further escalated tensions between the foes.
Trump’s stern words to the camera at his golf course in Bedminster came hours after reports indicated that North Korea can now wed nuclear warheads with its missiles, including those that may be able to hit the American mainland. The isolated and impoverished dictatorship has striven for decades to have the ability to strike the U.S. and its Asian allies, and the pace of its breakthroughs is already having far-reaching consequences
for stability in the Pacific and beyond.
The nuclear advances were detailed in an official Japanese assessment and in a Washington Post story that cited U.S. intelligence officials and a confidential Defense Intelligence Agency report. The U.S. now puts the North Korean arsenal at up to 60 nuclear weapons, more than double most assessments by independent experts, according to the Post’s reporting.
“North Korea had best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump said. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
“He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before,” he said, apparently referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The remarks appeared scripted, with Trump glancing at a paper in front of him. They evoked President Harry Truman’s announcement of the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, in which he warned of “a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”
But it wasn’t clear what Trump meant by his threat, and White House officials did not elaborate.
Trump supporters suggested he was trying to get Kim’s attention in a way that the North Korean would understand, while critics expressed concern that he could stumble into a war with devastating consequences.
“This is a more dangerous moment than faced by Trump’s predecessors,” said Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a nonprofit group in Washington. “The normal nuanced diplomatic rhetoric coming out of Washington hasn’t worked in persuading the Kim regime of American resolve. This language underscores that the most powerful country in the world has its own escalatory and retaliatory options.”
But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D- Calif., said it would be counterproductive.
“President Trump is not helping the situation with his bombastic comments,” she said in a statement.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, also took exception.
“All it’s going to do is bring us closer to some kind of serious confrontation,” he told KTAR News radio.
In an annual report, the Defense Ministry in Japan, a key U.S. ally in close proximity to North Korea, on Tuesday concluded that “it is possible that North Korea has achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has developed nuclear warheads.”
The Post story, citing unnamed U.S. intelligence officials, went further. It said the Defense Intelligence Agency analysis, completed last month, assessed that North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, including by intercontinental missiles.
Officials at the agency wouldn’t comment Tuesday. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also wouldn’t discuss the report.
It’s unclear how North Korea’s new capabilities will affect how the U.S. approaches the country’s regular missile launches and occasional nuclear tests. The U.S. military has never attempted to shoot a North Korean missile out of the sky, deeming all previous tests to pose no threat to the United States. The U.S. could weigh military action if the threat perception changes.
The calculation of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal at 60 bombs exceeds other assessments, which range from about 12 to about 30 weapons. The assessments are typically an estimate of the amount of plutonium and enriched uranium North Korea has in its inventory rather than how much of that material has been weaponized. It’s unclear how many, if any, miniaturized warheads North Korea has built.
North Korea’s long-range tests last month of intercontinental ballistic missiles highlighted the growing threat. While those missiles landed at sea near Japan, both were fired at highly lofted angles. Analysts said the weapons could reach Alaska, Los Angeles or Chicago if fired at a normal, flattened trajectory.
North Korea threatened to hit Guam with its Hwasong-12 missiles, which it says can carry a heavy nuclear warhead and, before the two ICBM launches, had demonstrated the longest potential range of the missiles testfired by the North.
Guam’s Homeland Security Adviser George Charfauros said officials there are confident “the U.S. Department of Defense is monitoring this situation very closely and is maintaining a condition of readiness.”
Charfauros in his statement this morning urged calm and said defenses are in place on Guam and its neighboring Pacific islands for threats such as North Korea.
SANCTIONS AGAINST NORTH
The U.N. Security Council’s adoption this weekend of new, tougher sanctions — spearheaded by Washington in response to last month’s missile tests — further strained relations between the U.S. and North Korea.
Backers of the resolution said the new sanctions would cut North Korea’s meager annual export revenue by about a third, impeding its ability to raise cash for its weapons programs.
The sanctions ban the import of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood from North Korea. They also prohibit U. N. member nations from hosting any additional workers from the North above their current levels. Washington called the restrictions “the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation.”
But doubts remain over how rigorously China and Russia, the North’s two neighboring allies, will enforce the sanctions.
On Twitter on Tuesday, Trump suggested progress is being made with the cooperation of China and Russia, both of which supported the Security Council resolution.
“After many years of failure, countries are coming together to finally address the dangers posed by North Korea,” Trump said. “We must be tough & decisive!”
Even before Trump’s “fire and fury” warning, North Korea’s response to the sanctions on Tuesday indicated that it could conduct another nuclear or missile test, as it had often done in response to past United Nations sanctions.
“Packs of wolves are coming in attack to strangle a nation,” the North Korean statement said. “They should be mindful that the DPRK’s strategic steps accompanied by physical action will be taken mercilessly with the mobilization of all its national strength,” it added, using the initials for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
To North Korea, having a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America is a guarantee against invasion by its superpower adversary.
North Korea began producing fissile material for bombs in the early 1990s and conducted its first nuclear test explosion in 2006. Four subsequent nuclear tests, the latest a year ago, have accelerated progress on miniaturizing a device — something North Korea already claimed it could do. Over that span, multiple U. S. presidents have tried and failed to coax or pressure Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear ambitions.
The secrecy of the North’s nuclear program and the underground nature of its test explosions make it difficult to properly assess its claims. But the new assessments from Japan and the U.S. suggest that doubts over the North’s abilities are receding.
President Donald Trump said Tuesday that “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.”
A photo distributed by the North Korean government shows what was said to be the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 28. Analysts said the missile has the capability to reach Alaska, Los Angeles or Chicago if fired at a normal, flattened trajectory, and reports Tuesday indicated North Korea can now package the missile with a nuclear warhead.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves at the passing troops during a military parade in Pyongyang on April 15. The North Korean army said in a statement today that it is considering creating an “enveloping fire” in areas around Guam with medium- to long-range ballistic missiles.