President Donald Trump said yesterday the United States’ nuclear arsenal was more powerful than ever, in a fresh warning to North Korea over its repeated missile tests.
Hours after putting Pyongyang on notice that it faced “fire and fury” over its weapons programme, Trump took to Twitter to proclaim that the US military’s nuclear capability had become stronger since he came to power.
And after North Korea said it was considering a missile strike near the US Pacific territory of Guam, Trump’s top diplomat delivered a message of reassurance to its residents and military personnel as he made a stopover on the island.
Trump’s “fire and fury” comments on Tuesday marked a sharp intensification of Washington’s rhetoric over the North’s nuclear and missile programmes, triggering expressions of concern from China and US allies.
But his early morning tweets – written from New Jersey, where he is on holiday for two weeks – dashed hopes of a cooling of tensions.
“My first order as president was to renovate and modernise our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before,” Trump wrote.
“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’s language has become increasingly hard-edged since Pyongyang staged a successful intercontinental ballistic missile test (ICBM) last month which put the US mainland in range for the first time.
Guam – a 337-square-kilometre dot in the Pacific that is home to about 6 000 US troops– would be a far easier target were North Korea to confirm its position as a nuclear power.
Hours after Trump’s “fire and fury” comments, Pyongyang’s KCNA state news agency reported that plans were being drawn up for missile strikes against Guam that could be put into action at any moment.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who refuelled in Guam yesterday while flying back home from Southeast Asia, said Trump was determined to send an unequivocal message to his North Korean counterpart.
“What the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong-un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” he said.
Tillerson said he did not believe “there is any imminent threat” to Guam or other US targets and hoped that diplomatic pressure would prevail in the crisis. -AFP