President Trump vowed to deliver “fire and fury like the world has never seen” to North Korea if it threatens the United States — but just hours later, the rogue nation announced plans for a pre-emptive strike on the U.S. territory of Guam.
Meanwhile Hawaii, where residents would get as little as 8 minutes heads-up before an attack, has reportedly begun testing a new “wailing” emergency siren that would be blasted on the first workday of the month.
Trump — technically in the midst of a 17-day “working vacation” in Bedminster, N.J. — spoke in doomsday rhetoric, his arms folded, when a reporter brought up North Korea at a briefing on opioid abuse.
“North Korea had best not make any more threats to the United States,” the president said. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said they will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
It didn’t take long for the war of words to escalate. Within hours, North Korean state media reported the country is “carefully examining” plans to strike the U.S. territory of Guam in the Western Pacific with missiles, according to Sky News.
And CBS reported that Hawaii is ready to test a warning siren alerting residents to an ICBM missile attack. It would take just 20 minutes for the missile to strike the islands, meaning residents would have between 8 and 12 minutes warning, according to the report.
Security analysts applauded Trump for sending a powerful message to strongman Kim Jong Un, but say it is unlikely to convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.
“I think it’s an important declarative policy. North Korea needs to understand exactly the cost of starting a conflict with the United States, especially a nuclear one,” said Peter Brookes, a national security expert at The Heritage Foundation.
“It’s part of deterrence, that if you ever think of launching a nuclear missile at the U.S. or starting a conflict, there will be a significant cost — the subtext being that it will be the end of North Korea,” Brookes said.
Nuclear fears were already running high when The Washington Post reported yesterday that North Korea had successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside missiles, reaching a critical milestone in its nuclear program. The isolationist regime also tested an intercontinental ballistic missile last month that displayed for the first time an ability to hit the mainland United States.
The North Koreans haven’t demonstrated a high degree of accuracy with their launches, and it’s unclear whether its weapons could hold up to the environmental pressures of intercontinental flight, Brookes said.
Ankit Panda, a North Korea analyst, called Trump’s “fire and fury” threats “dangerous” because they appeared to warn of military payback for rhetoric a day earlier from North Korea’s foreign minister promising its own attack on the U.S.
“The president appears to threaten retaliation for verbal threats from North Korea,” said Panda. “That’s a total change in U.S. policy.”
Adil Najam, the dean of the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, told the Herald he doesn’t think Trump’s remarks will persuade North Korea to reverse course on its nuclear program, adding that the regime will likely be satisfied that it got under the president’s skin.
“This is the kind of reaction they would be looking for,” said Najam. “They’re kind of poking at the president, trying to instigate him. So every time there is a comment that makes it seem like he is losing his cool, I suspect there is a smirk on the North Koreans’ face.”
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