WASHINGTON (AP) — So much for North Korea’s restraint. So much for President Donald Trump’s threats of “fire and fury.”
After Pyongyang’s highly provocative missile test over close American ally Japan, Trump offered a surprisingly subdued response Tuesday, pulling back from his administration’s recent suggestions of a dialogue with the communist country but also avoiding a repeat of his bombastic warnings earlier this month of a potential military confrontation.
Instead, Trump’s terse, written statement reiterating that all U.S. options are being considered pointed to an administration cautiously searching for an effective policy, even as the North’s test risked endangering Japanese civilians. Washington and its allies called an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting for later Tuesday, but looked short on new ideas for stopping the nuclear and missile advances that are increasingly putting the U.S. mainland within range.
“Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world,” Trump said after the North’s missile soared almost 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers) into the Pacific Ocean, triggering alert warnings in northern Japan and shudders throughout Northeast Asia. “All options are on the table.”
The tone was far more moderate than Trump’s colorful language earlier this month, when he spoke of unleashing “fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before” if North Korea kept threatening the U.S. There were no indications Trump had any imminent intention to make good on his threat to strike North Korea.
But such has been the speed of the Trump administration’s zigs and zags on North Korea policy. If Tuesday’s statement seemed unusually restrained for Trump, it actually marked a toughening of his administration’s most recent tone.
A senior U.S. official said the restrained nature of the administration’s recent responses was intentional, reflecting an effort by new White House chief of staff John Kelly to prevent a repeat of the rhetorical escalation that occurred earlier this month. But with Trump’s focus diverted to flood-ravaged Texas, it was unclear whether he might ultimately speak or tweet about the launch in greater detail.
Later Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council strongly condemned North Korea’s actions, calling them “outrageous.” The council’s statement doesn’t discuss any potential new sanctions but calls for strict…