President Donald Trump
followed up his incendiary warning to North Korea
against threatening the United States with a boast on Wednesday about the strength of the US nuclear
arsenal, but expressed hope this power would never need to be used.
Trump’s Twitter messages about the nuclear
arsenal came after North Korea
said it was considering plans for a missile strike
on the US Pacific territory of Guam.
That in turn followed Trump’s comments on Tuesday that any North Korean threat to the United States would be met with “fire and fury.” “My first order as President was to renovate and modernise our nuclear
arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before,” Trump
tweeted. “Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!” Trump’s “fire and fury” remarks prompted warnings from US officials and analysts not to engage in rhetorical slanging matches with Pyongyang.
By saying he hoped Washington would never need to use its nuclear
appeared to temper his comments.
The sharp increase in tensions drove investors out of stocks on Wednesday and into the yen, Swiss franc, gold and government debt.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
sought to play down the rhetoric. Shortly before Trump’s remarks on the nuclear
landed in Guam
for a previously scheduled visit after telling reporters he did not believe there was an imminent threat from North Korea
and that “Americans should sleep well at night.”
With his “fire and fury” warning, the US president was trying to speak in a way that would resonate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Tillerson
said. North Korea
regularly threatens to destroy the United States.
“What the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea
in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, North Korea
said it was “carefully examining” a plan to strike Guam, which is home to about 163,000 people and a US military base that includes a submarine squadron, an airbase and a Coast Guard group.
The plan would be put into practice at any moment, once Kim Jong Un made a decision, a Korean People’s Army spokesman said in a statement carried by state-run KCNA news agency.
Governor Eddie Calvo dismissed the threat and said the island was prepared for “any eventuality” with strategically placed defences. He said he had been in touch with the White House
and there was no change in the threat level. The United States and South Korea
remain technically still at war with North Korea
after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.
Tension in the region has risen since North Korea
carried out two nuclear
bomb tests last year and two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July. Trump
has said he will not allow Pyongyang
to develop a nuclear
weapon capable of hitting the United States. North Korea, which is pursuing missile and nuclear
weapons programs in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, accuses the United States of devising a “preventive war” and has said that any plans to execute this would be met with an “all-out war, wiping out all the strongholds of enemies, including the US mainland.”