Trump vows to answer North Korea’s nuclear threats with ‘fire and fury’

Experts warn US president’s combative rhetoric could backfire as North Korean regime says it is ‘carefully examining’ a plan to strike Pacific territory of Guam

Donald Trump has vowed to respond to North Korea with “fire and fury” if it makes any more threats to attack the United States.

Trump’s comments came after Pyongyang threatened “physical” retaliation for new United Nations sanctions – and on a day when fresh evidence emerged that the North Koreans have overcome one of the last major technical obstacles to being able to hit the US or western Europe with nuclear-armed missiles.

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“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump told journalists at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey. “They will be met with fire and the fury like the world has never seen.”

Experts on North Korea have warned that aggressive rhetoric could backfire on Trump, convincing Kim Jong-un that his regime is in imminent jeopardy and triggering what he sees as a pre-emptive attack.

“It is dangerous and reckless and counterproductive for Donald Trump to threaten the annihilation of North Korea,” said Daryl Kimball, the head of the Washington-based Arms Control Association. “What we need is a dialogue to reduce tension and avoid catastrophic miscalculation. We are currently on the road to a conflict and we have to get to the off-ramp.”

I don’t know what he’s saying and I’ve long ago given up trying to interpret what he says,” Republican senator John McCain told an Arizona radio station. “That kind of rhetoric, I’m not sure how it helps.”

The North Korean regime quickly responded, matching Trump’s bellicosity by saying it was “carefully examining” a plan for a missile strike on the US Pacific territory of Guam. In a separate statement, a military official was quoted as saying Pyongyang could carry out a pre-emptive operation if the US showed signs of “provocation”.

US intelligence agencies now believe, it was reported on Tuesday, the Pyongyang regime has succeeded in building a nuclear weapon small enough to put on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) – a conclusion supported by a Japanese government study. The US assessment also estimated the North Korean nuclear arsenal has now reached as much as 60 warheads, substantially more than earlier assessments.

After two ICBM tests in July, some weapons experts also believe the North Koreans have passed another hurdle, building a re-entry…

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