President Donald Trump continued to scold both North Korea and China on Thursday, and a White House aide blasted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for attempting to calm the public’s fears that Washington is slipping into an unwanted war with Pyongyang.
Trump doubled down on threats he made earlier in the week that he would unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea if it moved against the United States or its allies, saying “it’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries. So if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.”
On Wednesday, the North Korean defense ministry dismissed Trump’s comments as “a load of nonsense,” coming from a “guy bereft of reason.” It also said it was readying a plan to “box in” Guam with launches of four ballistic missiles; Guam is a key American military base with submarines, warships, aircraft, and thousands of troops.
When asked about the threats, the president, who is spending much of the month at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., cautioned Pyongyang about attacking the United States and its allies. “Because things will happen to them like they never thought possible, OK? He’s been pushing the world around for a long time.”
Asked what would have been tougher than “fire and fury,” Trump replied only, “You’ll see. You’ll see.”
If the missiles were actually launched at Guam — North Korean officials hope to drop them about 40 kilometers offshore — it would be the first time North Korean missiles landed so close to an American territory, and it would force the U.S. military to decide if it would attempt to shoot them down. It’s unclear how accurate the North can be when launching intermediate-range missiles, putting Guam’s 160,000 residents in danger.
Most missile tests are off limits to missile defenses, because they don’t go through forbidden areas; a shot just off a major U.S. base would be fair game, though. The most likely way to take the missiles down would be by American or Japanese warships equipped with the Aegis radar and missile defense system.
“Right now you can hear the screws turning on Aegis ships steaming somewhere between North Korea and Guam,” said Tom Karako, director of the missile defense project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
The United States operates two radar systems in Japan and one in Korea, which along with satellite surveillance would pick…