BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President Trump doubled down on his threats to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea on Thursday, pushing back against criticism that his aggressive rhetoric might backfire and inflame tensions.
“Maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said of his previous statement.
“It’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries,” Trump said, “So if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough. And we’re backed 100% by our military.”
Asked what could be tougher than “fire and fury,” Trump said only: “You’ll see. You’ll see.”
Trump said he would consider negotiations with North Korea and declined to discuss the possibility of a preemptive strike against Pyongyang. “We don’t talk about that. We never do.”
The president’s comments come two days after he made an unusually bellicose threat to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea if the rogue nation persists in threatening the United States. “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump said Tuesday. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
In the history of presidential threats, that language was “off the charts,” said B. Dan Wood, a Texas A&M University professor who has cataloged 4,269 presidential threats against 19 countries for his book Presidential Saber Rattling: Causes and Consequences. “(It) won’t get him anywhere but an increasing escalation and increasing hostility. It has been and always will be a failed strategy.”
Indeed, North Korea’s top general escalated those threats, saying this week he was drawing up plans to attack the U.S. territory of Guam with four ballistic missiles.
To this, Trump said that if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody’s seen before, what will happen in North Korea.”
“That’s not a dare. It’s a statement,” he said.
Trump spoke at his Bedminster National Golf Club after meeting with Vice President Pence, Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Trump said Americans who are concerned about the situation should be “very comfortable.”
“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 said. “Because things will happen to them like they never thought possible, OK? He’s been pushing the world around for a long time.”
Trump also said he is pushing China to do more to de-escalate tensions.
“I think China can do a lot more, yes, China can. And I think China will do a lot more,” he said. “Look, we have trade with China. We lose hundreds of billions of dollars a year on trade with China. They know how I feel. It’s not going to continue like that. But if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade, a lot differently toward trade.”
Guam’s delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, Madeleine Bordallo, criticized Trump’s comments as inflammatory.
“President Trump needs to tone down the rhetoric and recognize that words have consequences. His bellicose statements will not make our nation any safer and will only further elevate tensions between the United States and North Korea,” she said.
She expressed her confidence in the military, but said Trump must tone down the rhetoric.
“President Trump must reaffirm his commitment to Guam’s security and make clear that he will not allow any escalation to further threaten our island. Guam is not a bargaining chip. Guam is a U.S. territory with more than 160,000 American citizens living on island, and he is responsible for preventing any acts of aggression towards our community,” she said.