North Korea has threatened preemptive military strikes against the US, as President Donald Trump vowed to unleash “fire and fury” on Pyongyang if its aggression continued.
State-run media threatened a missile strike on the US Pacific territory of Guam and said North Korea would “turn the US mainland into the theatre of a nuclear war” at any sign of an impending American attack.
It marked a dramatic escalation in rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang, as the Trump administration sends mixed messages on how it plans to contain the growing threat from North Korea.
Guam and North Korea: What to know
North Korea’s threat came after Trump’s extraordinary remarks at his New Jersey resort of Bedminster Tuesday. “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,” he said.
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Trump’s comments were significantly more threatening than any made by US presidents in the past. They also appeared at odds with those of his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who has sought to dial down the tension with Pyongyang in recent weeks.
Tillerson defended Trump’s comments Wednesday, saying the President had sent a “strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong-Un would understand.”
But he also sought to reassure Americans that war was not imminent. “I have nothing that I have seen and nothing that I know of would indicate that the situation has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours,” Tillerson said on a flight from the region. “Americans should sleep well at night,” he said.
The key developments:
— Trump’s remarks came after claims by US intelligence sources that North Korea had developed the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead that can fit atop a missile.
— They also followed threats by Pyongyang to “make the US pay dearly” for helping spearhead the passage of new UN sanctions against the country in response to two recent missile tests.
— North Korea announced its plans to strike areas around Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic rockets in a report by state-run KCNA on Wednesday. It cited a military statement made a day earlier, before Trump’s remarks.
— The Guam plan was in response to the US flying two B-1B bombers from the Pacific island over the Korean peninsula on Monday. The bombers were joined by Japanese and South Korean aircraft.