Trump: Maybe threat on North Korea wasn’t ‘tough enough’

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President Trump on Thursday ramped up his war of words against North Korea over its nuclear program, saying his warning of “fire and fury” against the rogue nation “may not be tough enough.”

Even as he underlined his Tuesday statement aimed at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump sought to reassure anxious Americans that he has the situation under control and downplayed the notion that his administration is sending mixed messages about its response.

“Frankly, the people who were questioning that statement, was it too tough? Maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” he told reporters at his New Jersey golf club. “They’ve been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years, and it’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries.”


Trump said that if Pyongyang attacks the U.S. or one of its allies, “things will happen to them like they never thought possible” and that should make North Korean leadership “very nervous.”

The president refused to say whether he is considering pre-emptive attacks against North Korea or whether he would revisit negotiations with Kim’s authoritarian regime, saying he did not want to tip his hand.

The burgeoning nuclear crisis has rattled leaders and citizens at home and abroad who are concerned about the ability of Trump, a political newcomer, to handle a major threat to national security.

“The people of this country should be very comfortable, and I will tell you this: If North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about attack of anybody that we love or we represent or our allies or us, they can be very, very nervous,” Trump said.

Trump huddled with his team on Thursday as he faces criticism over mixed messages from the administration with regards to North Korea.

He spoke to reporters in front of the clubhouse at his secluded golf club in Bedminster, N.J., where he is spending a 17-day summer vacation.

The North Korea situation has forced the president to respond during his trip. Following his comments, Trump received a security briefing from White House chief of staff John Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. He was joined by Vice President Pence, who stood beside him during his remarks.

After Trump gave his provocative “fire and fury” statement, which aides said he developed on his own, other administration officials sought to calm fears that the U.S. was close to entering a nuclear war with North Korea.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday told reporters there is not “any imminent threat” from North Korea despite the tough talk on both sides.

“Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days,” Tillerson said aboard his plane in Guam, the U.S. island territory that North Korea threatened to attack in the event of an preemptive American strike.

White House adviser Sebastian Gorka appeared to rebuke Tillerson on Thursday, saying it is “simply nonsensical” to think the top diplomat would discuss military options on North Korea.

Gorka said that’s the job of the president and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who issued his own forceful, yet more restrained, warning to North Korea that suggested the country’s actions, and not its words, would draw a response from the United States. 

Mattis said North Korea “must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons” and “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

But the president on Thursday appeared to double down on his original statement, suggesting that even threats from North Korea against the United States are unacceptable.

North Korea’s leader “has disrespected our country greatly,” Trump said. “He has said things that are horrific. And with me he’s not getting away with it. He got away with it for a long time, between him and his family. He’s not getting away with it. This is a whole new ballgame.”

“He’s not going to go around threatening Guam and he’s not going to threaten the United States and he’s not going to threaten Japan and he’s not going to threaten South Korea. That’s not a dare, as you say. That is a statement of fact.”

Asked Thursday about the varying statements from the administration, Trump responded, “there were no mixed messages.”

“Look, here’s the view. I said it yesterday. I don’t have to say it again. And I’ll tell you this, it may be tougher than I said it, not less,” he said.

– This post was updated at 5:07 p.m.

Tags James Mattis Mike Pompeo North Korea Presidency of Donald Trump Rex Tillerson
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