President Donald Trump on Thursday said he could have used even stronger language this week toward North Korea and issued a new warning to dictator Kim Jong Un over his threat to strike the U.S. territory of Guam.
Trump said he might not have been “tough enough” when he threatened earlier this week to bring “fire and fury like the world has never seen” down on North Korea if it continued provocations, and he said the United States was preparing for various alternatives involving the isolated nation.
“Frankly, the people that were questioning that statement — was it too tough? — maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” Trump told reporters Thursday at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “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.”
North Korea had warned of a possible attack on Guam and dismissed Trump’s threat as “a load of nonsense.”
“Let’s see what he does with Guam. He does something in Guam, it will be an event, the likes of which nobody’s seen before, what will happen in North Korea,” Trump said of Kim.
“No, that’s not a dare,” he continued. “That is a statement of fact.”
Some members of Trump’s team, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have sought to downplay the president’s fiery language, which was off-the-cuff and criticized by some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
As tensions rose, Trump’s team has seemed at odds at times about the severity of the North Korea threat. Tillerson told reporters Wednesday that “Americans should sleep well at night” and expressed “no concerns” about the president’s statements.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in a statement later that day took a more aggressive stance, saying North Korea “should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
Trump insisted that there were no mixed messages coming from his administration, and he said Americans “should be very comfortable” because “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.” He further warned North Korea that “things will happen to them like they never thought possible, OK?”
“The people of our country are safe. Our allies are safe,” Trump assured. “And I will tell you this: North Korea better get their act together or they’re gonna be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world.”
Vowing to ensure the U.S. is armed with the “biggest” and “finest” nuclear arsenal in the world and to beef up America’s anti-missile defense, the president added that his administration will seek to increase the Pentagon’s budget by billions of dollars.
“As you know, we reduced it by 5 percent,” Trump said, alluding to his administration’s proposed budget for missile defense, “but I’ve decided I don’t want that.”
Trump said he has “great respect” for China and Russia’s votes in the United Nations Security Council over the weekend to sanction North Korea. But he lamented that the sanctions are unlikely to have the desired effect.
The commander in chief, who said he thinks China could do more to rein in North Korea and floated the possibility of leveraging trade issues to get China to act, expressed a willingness to negotiate but also argued that he’s backed “100 percent” by the U.S. military.
He refused to say, however, whether he was considering a preemptive strike.
“We don’t talk about that. I never do,” Trump said. “We’ll see what happens.”
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