Trump on North Korea: 'What I said is what I mean'

President Trump said Friday he meant what he said about the U.S. military being "locked and loaded" in response to threats from North Korea.

“We are looking at that very carefully and I hope they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said, and what I said is what I mean,” Trump told reporters at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club. “Those words are very, very easy to understand.”

Trump tweeted Friday morning that military options for a potential threat from North Korea are "fully in place," and urged the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, to de-escalate the current confrontation with Washington.

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"Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!"
Trump's recent comments carried his standoff with North Korea into a fourth day, interrupting his 17-day summer vacation in New Jersey. On Tuesday, the president said he would unleash "fire and fury" on the North if it continued to threaten the U.S. 

That comment prompted North Korea's military to announce that it is considering sending a missile toward the U.S. territory of Guam. Plans to do so, the country said Wednesday, would be in place by mid-August.

Trump on Friday said that such a strike on Guam, or an overt threat on the island territory or a U.S. ally, may trigger a military response from the U.S.

“This man will not get away with what he is doing, believe me,” the president said. “And if he utters one threat, in the form of an overt threat … or if he does anything with respect to Guam, or any place else that's an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.”

Trump’s bellicose rhetoric has raised concerns among leaders and citizens at home and abroad about the possibility of a nuclear-armed conflict between the U.S. and North Korea.

Some other officials in the Trump administration have sought to calm those fears and downplay the chances of a military engagement.

“The tragedy of war is well enough known. It does not need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic,” Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Mattis hints at US military options for North Korea Mattis: US to send 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan MORE said Thursday.

The American effort with respect to North Korea, Mattis said, "is diplomatically led, it has diplomatic traction, it is gaining diplomatic results. And I want to stay right there right now."

Behind the tough talk, reports emerged Friday that the U.S. and North Korea are using a secret diplomatic back-channel to discuss tensions between the two nations.

Trump declined to comment on those talks, which were first reported by The Associated Press.

“We don't want to talk about backchannels,” he said.” We want to talk about a country that has misbehaved for many many years, decades actually, through numerous administrations and they didn't want to take on the issue and I had no choice but to take it on, and I'm taking it on.”