Donald Trump’s warning he would unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea continue to expand their nuclear and missile programmes has sparked widespread speculation about what prompted the US President to fire off his fiercest warning to the country yet.
Questions were immediately raised about whether the shocking remarks had been ratified by his team. This was followed by a number of reports suggesting members of the White House national security team did not realise President Trump would address North Korea and his remarks were off the cuff and improvised.
What’s more, a commentator for The Toronto Star suggested Mr Trump’s reference to the “likes of which the world has never seen” stemmed from the fact he had just used the phrase to discuss America’s opioid crisis.
Nevertheless, the White House has now insisted Mr Trump consulted with chief of staff John Kelly and other national security aides before he made the alarming remarks during a press conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster New Jersey on Tuesday.
“The president and chief of staff Kelly are and have been in constant contact with members of the [National Security Council] team,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told reporters.
But White House spokespeople refused to say who the president spoke with beyond Mr Kelly or whether they had reviewed the North Korea statement.
Ms Walters said national security adviser HR McMaster would be travelling to meet with the president later this week.
Mr Trump’s “fire and fury” comments and warning North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un “best not make any more threats to the US” have dramatically ratcheted up tensions between the US and North Korea.
Just hours later, North Korea announced it is “carefully examining” a plan to strike the US Pacific territory of Guam with missiles. Pyongyang outlined plans to launch four missiles towards the tropical island which is more than 3,000 km (2,000 miles) to the southeast of North Korea and is home to about 163,000 people and a US Navy installation that includes a submarine squadron, a Coast Guard group and an air base.
KCNA, the state-run news agency, said preparations for the strike could be ready in days, with Hwangsong-12 rockets flying over Japan before landing in the sea roughly 30km (17 miles) from Guam.
President Trump’s comments have raised alarm bells about the prospect of a nuclear conflict. They follow a period of relative peace…