By James Oliphant and Ben Blanchard
BEDMINSTER, N.J./BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned North Korea it would be met with “fire and fury” if it threatens the United States.
Earlier Pyongyang said it was ready to give Washington a “severe lesson” with its strategic nuclear force in response to any U.S. military action.
Washington has warned it is ready to use force if need be to stop North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs but that it prefers global diplomatic action, including sanctions.
The consequences of any U.S. strike would potentially be catastrophic for South Koreans, Japanese and U.S. military personnel within range of North Korean retaliatory strikes.
U.S. military and intelligence officials said any military action against North Korea could unleash a barrage of missiles and artillery in retaliation targeted on Seoul and U.S. bases in South Korea and elsewhere that would likely claim hundreds of thousands of lives.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump told reporters at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday over its continued missile tests, that could slash the reclusive country’s $3 billion annual export revenue by a third.
North Korea said the sanctions infringed its sovereignty and it was ready to give Washington a “severe lesson” with its strategic nuclear force in response to any U.S. military action.
North Korea has made no secret of plans to develop a nuclear-tipped missile able to strike the United States and has ignored international calls to halt its nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea says its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are a legitimate means of defense against perceived U.S. hostility. It has long accused the United States and South Korea of escalating tensions by conducting military drills.
U.S. stocks closed slightly lower after Trump’s comment, while a widely followed measure of stock market anxiety <.VIX> ended at its highest in nearly a month. The U.S. dollar index <.DXY> pared gains and the safe-haven yen strengthened against the U.S. currency.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has warned of an “effective and overwhelming” response against North Korea if it chose to use nuclear weapons but has said any military solution would be “tragic on an…