Trump steps up war of words

He as­sures Amer­i­cans they can re­lax, and it’s North Korea that should worry

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Gre­gory Korte Con­tribut­ing: Ni­cholas Pugliese of the Bergen Record

Mean­while, Guam is caught in the mid­dle,

Pres­i­dent Trump dou­bled down on his threats to un­leash “fire and fury” on North Korea, push­ing back Thurs­day against crit­i­cism that his ag­gres­sive rhetoric might back­fire and in­flame ten­sions.

“Maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said of his pre­vi­ous state­ment.

“It’s about time that some­body stuck up for the peo­ple of this coun­try and for the peo­ple of other coun­tries,” Trump said, “so if any­thing, maybe that state­ment wasn’t tough enough. And we’re backed 100% by our mil­i­tary.”

Asked what could be tougher than “fire and fury,” Trump said only, “You’ll see. You’ll see.”

Trump said he would con­sider ne­go­ti­a­tions with North Korea and de­clined to dis­cuss the pos- sibil­ity of a pre-emp­tive strike against Py­ongyang: “We don’t talk about that. We never do.”

The pres­i­dent’s com­ments came two days af­ter he warned North Korea against per­sist­ing in ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior against the United States. “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump said Tues­day. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

In the his­tory of pres­i­den­tial threats, that lan­guage was “off the charts,” said B. Dan Wood, a Texas A&M Univer­sity pro­fes­sor who has cat­a­loged 4,269 pres­i­den­tial threats against 19 coun­tries for his book Pres­i­den­tial Saber Rat­tling: Causes and Con­se­quences.

Such lan­guage “won’t get him any­where but an in­creas­ing es­ca­la­tion and in­creas­ing hos­til­ity,” Wood said. “It has been and al­ways will be a failed strat­egy.”

In­deed, North Korea’s top gen­eral es­ca­lated the ten­sions by say­ing he was draw­ing up plans to at­tack the U.S. ter­ri­tory of Guam with four bal­lis­tic mis­siles. Trump re­sponded that if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “does some­thing in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which no­body’s seen be­fore, what will hap­pen in North Korea.”

“That’s not a dare. It’s a state­ment,” he said.

Trump spoke at his Bed­min­ster Na­tional Golf Club af­ter meet­ing with Vice Pres­i­dent Pence, Chief of Staff John Kelly, na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser H.R. McMaster and CIA Di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo.

Trump said Amer­i­cans who are con­cerned about the stand­off should be “very com­fort­able.”

“If North Korea does any­thing in terms of even think­ing about at­tack­ing any­body that we love or we rep­re­sent or our al­lies or us, they can be very, very ner­vous,” he said. “Be­cause things will hap­pen to them like they never thought pos­si­ble, OK? He’s been push­ing the world around for a long time.”

Trump said he is push­ing China, North Korea’s ally, to do more to defuse ten­sions.

“I think China can do a lot more, yes, China can. And I think China will do a lot more,” he said. “Look, we have trade with China. We lose hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars a year on trade with China.

“They know how I feel. It’s not go­ing to con­tinue like that. But if China helps us, I feel a lot dif­fer­ently to­ward trade, a lot dif­fer­ently to­ward trade.”

“It’s about time that some­body stuck up for the peo­ple of this coun­try and for the peo­ple of other coun­tries.” Pres­i­dent Trump

NI­CHOLAS KAMM, AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Trump says he’s se­cure in the “100%” back­ing of the mil­i­tary.

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