North Korea Threat Comes After Trump Vows ‘Fire and Fury’

After president warns against making any more threats to the U.S, North Korea says it is considering plan to launch missiles at Guam

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North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency shows the second intercontinental ballistic missile launched from an undisclosed site in the North. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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President Donald Trump discusses North Korea on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. President Donald Trump Tuesday threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury.” Photo Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump bluntly warned North Korea against making any more threats to the U.S., saying the country “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Within hours of Mr. Trump’s comments, North Korea made its most specific threat against the U.S. yet. Through its official media, North Korea said it was considering firing missiles at Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific, and making the U.S. “the first to experience the might of the strategic weapons of the DPRK”—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s formal name.

Mr. Trump’s stark comments reflect deep concern in the administration about the progress North Korea has made in recent months on its nuclear-weapons program, as well as provocative statements this week that seemingly rejected negotiations over curbing that program.

The president’s brief remarks at his golf resort in New Jersey likely were aimed both at North Korea, which this week openly threatened to use nuclear weapons, and at China, in hopes of alarming the Chinese into doing their part to enforce new United Nations economic sanctions against North Korea.

Meanwhile, a senior Trump administration official said Tuesday that Washington shouldn’t assume it will be able to contain a North Korea with nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles through traditional deterrence methods.

“We are not going to allow North Korea to hold American cities hostage,” the official said.

Mr. Trump vowed in January that North Korea wouldn’t develop a nuclear weapon capable of striking parts of the U.S.

While North Korea’s state media regularly threatens strikes on the U.S. homeland and other U.S. military assets in Asia, they are usually vague in detail and rarely linked directly to an order from the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

A spokesman for the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army was quoted in state media as saying that the operational plan would be “soon reported to the Supreme Command” and “will be put into practice in a multi-concurrent and consecutive way any moment once Kim Jong Un, supreme commander of the nuclear force of the DPRK, makes a decision.”

In a statement published through its state media, North Korea’s military urged the U.S. to “clearly face up to the fact that the ballistic rockets of the Strategic Force of the KPA are now on constant standby, facing the Pacific Ocean.”

North Korea has conducted five nuclear weapons tests since 2006. U.S. officials long have believed the country has had the capability to produce a nuclear warhead small enough to travel atop a ballistic missile, though they also think North Korea faces technical hurdles.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said during congressional testimony in May that the North Korean leader “was photographed beside a nuclear warhead design and missile airframes to show that North Korea has warheads small enough to fit on a missile.”

The Defense Intelligence Agency concluded “with moderate confidence” in a 2013 report read during a public congressional hearing that North Korea possessed “nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.” At the time, the agency believed their reliability was low.

Last month, the DIA also issued a new analysis concluding North Korea had produced nuclear weapons small enough to be carried by intercontinental ballistic missiles, U.S. officials confirmed.

The Washington Post first reported the existence of that analysis on Tuesday, which refers to an assessment of the capability by the broader intelligence community.What has worried U.S. officials most in recent months, though, is the rapid progression of the country’s program to field intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs—long-range weapons that would allow North Korea to rocket warheads through the atmosphere to hit the continental U.S.

North Korea conducted its first ICBM test on July 4 and followed up with a second ICBM teston July 28 that experts said put the continental U.S. firmly in range of a strike.

But so far experts disagree about whether the devices the country has tested have been able to survive re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere without disintegrating, according to analysts who have scrutinized footage of the test launches.

U.S. officials say there is also no indication yet that North Korea has tested whether its miniaturized nuclear warhead can withstand re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere.

In its remarks, published by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, North Korea cited recent routine U.S. tests of American intercontinental ballistic missiles and U.S. Air Force flyovers of the Korean Peninsula this week as reasons for its move.

The report said a missile attack would use the Hwasong-12 and target the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, from which the U.S. has sent its B-1B bombers several times this year to fly over the Korean Peninsula.

A U.S. Pacific Command spokesman confirmed American B-1B bombers conducted a flyover this week.

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The missile and air force flyovers, North Korea said, were “driving the regional situation to an extreme pitch by bringing various kinds of nuclear strategic hardware before the very eyes of the DPRK.”

“War is by no means a game,” North Korea said in one of its reports Wednesday. “We do not hide that we already have in full readiness the diversified strategic nuclear strike means which have the U.S. mainland in our striking range.”

The progress North Korea has made on its nuclear weapons program has presented Mr. Trump’s administration with one of the toughest national-security challenges in a generation. Officials fear Mr. Kim could soon possess a weapon that can hold U.S. cities hostage with mass destruction, a threat administration officials say they won’t accept.

The Trump administration notched a significant win in its effort to push back on North Korea’s threats at the U.N. on Saturday, when China joined the Security Council in unanimously passing a sanctions resolution aimed at slashing about $1 billion from North Korea’s annual foreign export revenue. A senior administration official said Tuesday that China’s vote showed that Beijing was increasingly viewing North Korea as a strategic liability rather than an asset.

Whether the sanctions can work fast enough to prevent Mr. Kim from obtaining the capability to strike the U.S. with nuclear weapons remains unclear.

Mr. Trump’s remarks Tuesday appeared to echo those that President Harry S. Truman made in 1945 after ordering the use of a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and demanding Japan’s surrender during World War II. Mr. Truman warned that if the Japanese failed to accept the U.S. terms of surrender, “they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”

Mr. Trump didn’t make clear what actions by North Korea would trigger such a dramatic U.S. response, or what precisely it would have to do to prevent it, raising the prospect of a miscommunication between Washington and Pyongyang at a moment of heightened tensions.

Republican Sen. John McCain, in an interview with Arizona radio station KTAR on Tuesday, said of Mr. Trump’s remarks: “That kind of rhetoric, I’m not sure how it helps. … I take exception to the president’s words because you got to be sure you can do what you say you’re going to do.”

The administration has emphasized that it is leaving all options on the table, including military intervention. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the U.S. isn’t seeking a regime change in North Korea and urged the country to stop its missile tests and enter a dialogue with Washington.

One calculation the Trump administration must make is whether Mr. Kim is seeking the capability only to guarantee the survival of his regime, or whether he plans to leverage his newfound nuclear arsenal to pursue geostrategic aims in the region. For example, the Kim regime has long sought to divide the U.S. from its ally in South Korea and harbored ambitions of reunifying the Korean Peninsula on its own terms.

“I believe that any approach that somehow gives North Korea nuclear status is a mistake, because I think what they’re ultimately after is to try to decouple us from South Korea,” said Christopher R. Hill, former assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and former U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

Mr. Hill outlined a scenario in which North Korea develops a nuclear warhead that can strike the U.S. and then mounts a conventional invasion of South Korea to reunite the peninsula. Pyongyang could threaten the U.S. with a nuclear strike on a U.S. city should American forces come to South Korea’s aid, forcing Washington to choose between the homeland and its ally.

The senior Trump administration official said the U.S. doesn’t have the luxury of assuming Mr. Kim won’t pursue grand geopolitical ambitions once he obtains a reliable nuclear arsenal.

“There are some who believe he seeks these weapons to maintain the status quo on the peninsula,” the official said. “But if you listen to what he himself has said at various times, it looks as if he has grand ambitions to change the status quo on the peninsula.”

Write to Paul Sonne at, Shane Harris at and Jonathan Cheng at

Appeared in the August 9, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Warns North Korea: Stop Threats.’


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One Response to “North Korea Threat Comes After Trump Vows ‘Fire and Fury’”

  1. Brittius Says:

    Reblogged this on Brittius and commented:
    Public Record, will indicate the protracted and chronic threats made by North Korea as the instigator. In the International Court of the Hague, the US has absolutely nothing to fear if preemptive nuclear strike is made against North Korea.

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