Trump threatens North Korea with ‘trouble,’ escalating tensions


By Jonathan Lemire and Josh Lederman - Associated Press



BEDMINSTER, N.J. — Not backing down, President Donald Trump warned Kim Jong Un’s government on Thursday to “get their act together” or face extraordinary trouble, and suggested his earlier threat to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea was too mild.

“Maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said, in the latest U.S. salvo in an escalating exchange of threats between the nuclear-armed nations.

A day after North Korea laid out plans to strike near Guam with unsettlingly specificity, there was no observable march toward combat, despite the angry rhetoric from both sides. U.S. officials said there was no major movement of U.S. military assets to the region, nor were there signs Pyongyang was actively preparing for war.

Trump declined to say whether the U.S. is considering a pre-emptive military strike as he spoke to reporters before a briefing with his top national security advisers at his New Jersey golf resort.

The president insisted the North had been “getting away with a tragedy that can’t be allowed.”

“North Korea better get their act together, or they are going to be in trouble like few nations have ever been in trouble,” Trump said, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence. Accusing his predecessors of insufficient action, Trump said it was time somebody stood up to the pariah nation.

Though tensions have been building for months amid new missile tests by the North, the pace has intensified since the U.N. Security Council on Saturday passed sweeping new sanctions Trump had requested. The sanctions prompted the new heated volley of rhetoric.

In the latest move by North Korea, its military announced a detailed plan to fire four Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan and into waters around the tiny U.S. territory of Guam, home to two U.S. bases and 160,000 people.

North Korea said its military would finalize the plan by mid-August, then wait for Kim’s order. U.S. allies Japan and South Korea quickly vowed a strong reaction if the North were to follow through.

Trump echoed that threat Thursday, insisting if North Korea took any steps to attack Guam, its leaders would have reason to be nervous.

“Things will happen to them like they never thought possible, OK?” Trump said. He did not specify what they might be.

Military analysts said it was unusual for Pyongyang to give such a precise target for a military action. Still, there were no signs that North Korea was seriously mobilizing its population for war, such as by pulling workers from factories or putting the army on formal alert.

“There’s a lot of theater to this whole thing,” said Bob Carlin, former Northeast Asia chief for the State Department’s intelligence arm.

Similarly, the U.S. military gave no indications it perceived a seriously escalating threat from Pyongyang, such as moving to evacuate American personnel or their families from Guam, where there are 7,000 U.S. troops, or South Korea, where there are 28,000.

And U.S. officials insisted no significant number of troops, ships, aircraft or other assets were being directed to the region, beyond any that had been previously scheduled. The officials weren’t authorized to discuss military planning publicly and requested anonymity.

Trump said he would soon announce a request for a budget increase of “billions of dollars” for anti-missile systems.

By Jonathan Lemire and Josh Lederman

Associated Press

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