Despite increasingly heated rhetoric, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to downplay the threat posed by North Korea in remarks on Wednesday.
Tillerson discussed the rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea as he traveled to Guam, the U.S. Pacific territory that has been cited by Pyongyang as a potential target.
“I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days,” Tillerson said.
The comments from Tillerson come on the heels of a back-and-forth of threats between President Donald Trump and North Korea.
Trump told reporters on Tuesday that further threats from North Korea would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
In remarks from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump argued North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un 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,” Trump added.
In an apparent response to Trump’s comments, North Korea threatened to carry out missile strikes on Guam, which is home to a U.S. Naval base.
A statement carried by state-run news agency KCNA, said the North Korean military is “carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam.”
Tillerson defended Trump’s remarks, which he argued send a clear message to North Korea that the U.S. will defend itself and its allies.
“What the President is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong-un can understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” Tillerson said.
The nation’s top diplomat also suggested that the increasingly threatening rhetoric from North Korea reflects a response to the international community increasing pressure on the communist nation.
Tillerson pointed to the U.N. Security Council’s recent unanimous decision to impose tough new sanctions on North Korea, including a full ban on the export of coal, iron and iron ore.
“I think that’s why the rhetoric coming out of Pyongyang is beginning to become louder and more threatening,” Tillerson said.
He added, “Whether we’ve got them backed into a corner or not is difficult to say, but diplomatically, you never like to have someone in a corner without a way for them to get out.”
Tillerson said North Korea’s way out is to engage in talks with the expectation that the talks will be about abandoning the development of nuclear…