BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday issued fresh threats of swift and forceful retaliation against nuclear North Korea, declaring the U.S. military “locked and loaded” and warning that the communist country’s leader “will regret it fast” if he takes any action against U.S. territories or allies.
The warnings came in a cascade of unscripted statements throughout the day, each ratcheting up a rhetorical standoff between the two nuclear nations. The president appeared to draw another red line that would trigger a U.S. attack against North Korea and “big, big trouble” for its leader, Kim Jong Un. Trump’s comments, however, did not appear to be backed by significant military mobilization on either side of the Pacific, and an important, quiet diplomatic channel remained open.
“If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat — which by the way he has been uttering for years and his family has been uttering for years — or he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast,” Trump told reporters at his New Jersey golf resort.
Asked if the U.S. was going to war, he said cryptically, “I think you know the answer to that.”
The compounding threats came in a week in which longstanding tensions between the countries risked abruptly boiling over. New United Nations sanctions condemning the North’s rapidly developing nuclear program drew fresh ire and threats from Pyongyang. Trump responded by vowing to rain down “fire and fury” if challenged. The North then threatened to lob missiles near Guam, a tiny U.S. territory some 2,000 miles from Pyongyang.
Tough talk aside, talks between senior U.S. and North Korean diplomats continue through a back channel previously used to negotiate the return of Americans held in North Korea. The talks have expanded to address the deterioration of the relationship. They haven’t quelled tensions, but could be a foundation for a more diplomacy, according to U.S. officials and others briefed on the process. They weren’t authorized to discuss the confidential exchanges and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump on Friday sought to project military strength, only dialing back slightly throughout the day.
He began with a morning tweet: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
He later retweeted a posting from U.S….