By JOSH LEDERMAN
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared the U.S. nuclear arsenal “far stronger and more powerful than ever before,” even as his top diplomat was working to calm the North Korea crisis and insisting there wasn’t “any imminent threat.”
In a series of early-morning tweets Wednesday, Trump reaffirmed his threat from a day earlier by reposting video of him warning that Pyongyang would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it made more threats to the U.S. Then he said that his first order as president had been to “renovate and modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
“Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!” Trump tweeted.
It wasn’t immediately clear what evidence the president had, if any, to support his claim about the nuclear force.
Trump did issue an executive order in his first days in office calling for a review to ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent is “modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready” and appropriately tailored for 21st century threats. The White House has not detailed any findings from that evaluation. A modernization effort started by former President Barack Obama is in the early stages, but the force is essentially unchanged from the way Trump inherited it on Jan. 20.
Only hours before Trump’s tweets, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged calm and said Americans should have “no concerns” despite the exchange of threats between the president and North Korea. Aboard his plane as he flew home from Asia, Tillerson insisted the developments didn’t suggest the U.S. was moving closer to a military option to dealing with the crisis.
“Americans should sleep well at night,” Tillerson said. He added: “Nothing that I have seen and nothing that I know of would indicate that the situation has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours.”
The mixed messages from Tillerson and Trump put the onus on the North Koreans to decide how to interpret the latest missives from the U.S.
In more tranquil terms than Trump, Tillerson sought to explain the thinking behind Trump’s warning. He said the president was trying to send a strong and clear message to North Korea’s leader so that there wouldn’t be “any miscalculation.”
“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…