GOP senator: Trump's rhetoric not to blame for North Korea nuclear threat

GOP senator: Trump's rhetoric not to blame for North Korea nuclear threat
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstSenate adds members to pro-NATO group Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act Only all-male state Supreme Court set to get female justice MORE (R-Iowa) said Friday she doesn’t believe President Trump’s combative rhetoric against North Korea has hurt U.S. efforts to contain the country’s growing nuclear threat.

“In this case I don’t think that’s the determining factor at all,” Ernst said during a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum.

“I think North Korea has been bent on obtaining nuclear capabilities for a very long time and I don’t see that it was the president or any of his words which spurred that action. This has been an ongoing process for them long before we had an administration change,” she said.

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Trump has steadily ratcheted up his threats against North Korea since August over Pyongyang's developing nuclear and missile programs.

The president said last month that the United States would unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea if it continued to threaten the U.S.

Last week at the United Nations General Assembly, Trump also threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons and dubbed the country's leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man.”

Tensions rose further between the two countries on Saturday when Trump suggested on Twitter that North Korea "won't be around much longer" if its foreign minister “echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man.”

On Monday North Korea's foreign minister called Trump's threats against the country a declaration of war.

“When [Trump] says if North Korea comes at us, we’re going to come back full force, well yeah we’re going to go back full force, there’s no messing around with North Korea when they have nuclear capability,” said Ernst, who served as a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard in Iraq.

“I don’t see that his words have worsened the situation, at all. If anything it has put North Korea on alert that if they keep moving ahead with they’re intentions of putting a nuclear warhead onto an [ballistic missile], that if they should use that technology then we’re going to go after them.”

Still, more than two-thirds of U.S. voters say Trump's comments toward North Korea are unhelpful, according to a Fox News poll released Thursday.