North Korea on Wednesday escalated already-heightened tensions with the United States, warning that a plan to attack waters near Guam will be in place by mid-August and that President Trump understands "only absolute force."
The country's military also starkly dismissed Trump's warning, issued the day before, that he will unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea if it continues to threaten the U.S. as a "load of nonsense," according to reports.
"The U.S. President at [golf] links again let out a load of nonsense about 'fire and fury,' failing to grasp the ongoing grave situation," a commander of the North Korean army said, as reported by CNN. "It seems that he has not yet understood the statement. Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work with him."
Tensions have been heightened for months amid the accelerating pace of North Korea's ballistic missile tests and the death of American student Otto Warmbier, who had been held prisoner in the country for 17 months.
But the tensions reached a new high on Tuesday after it was reported that North Korea had developed a miniaturized nuclear warhead capable of being attached to a missile.
Trump responded furiously to that development, telling reporters at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club that if Pyongyang's threats against the U.S. continued, North Korea would "be met with fire and fury ... like the world has never seen."
The president's inflammatory rhetoric quickly prompted a response from North Korea's military, which said that it was considering a pre-emptive strike on Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific that hosts about 6,000 American troops in addition to thousands of civilians.
Democrats and some Republicans quickly denounced Trump's remarks as reckless.
The administration acknowledged Wednesday that Trump's specific comments were not planned in advance, though it denied being caught off guard.
In a statement, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisFormer Defense Secretary Mattis testifies in Theranos CEO trial 20 years after 9/11, we've logged successes but the fight continues Defense & National Security — The mental scars of Afghanistan MORE indicated the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) could face a military response for its actions, not its threats.
“The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Mattis said. “The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”