A dangerous use of words by the authoritarian president threatens to launch the U.S. into another war. The Doomsday Clock will probably get closer to midnight after recent events, and that’s with it already being at 2.5 minutes to midnight. For comparison, the Doomsday Clock was at its closest in 1953, at 2 minutes to midnight, when the U.S. and the USSR tested thermonuclear weapons.
President Trump threatened on Tuesday to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea if it endangers the United States as tensions with the isolated nuclear-armed state grow into perhaps the most serious foreign policy challenge yet in his young administration.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Mr. Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “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 and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
The president’s comments came as North Korea earlier in the day escalated its criticism of the United States, as well as its neighboring allies, by warning that it will mobilize all its resources to take “physical action” in retaliation against the latest round of United Nations sanctions.
The statement, carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, was the strongest indication yet that the country could conduct another nuclear or missile test, as it had often done in response to past United Nations sanctions. Until now, the North’s response to the latest sanctions had been limited to strident yet vague warnings, such as threatening retaliation “thousands of times over.”
“Packs of wolves are coming in attack to strangle a nation,” the North Korean statement said. “They should be mindful that the D.P.R.K.’s strategic steps accompanied by physical action will be taken mercilessly with the mobilization of all its national strength.”
D.P.R.K. stands for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
North Korea’s statement on Tuesday appeared to defy efforts by both Washington and Beijing to defuse the tense situation.
On Monday, while attending a regional security meeting of foreign ministers in Manila, the United States’ secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, kept the door open for talks with North Korea, suggesting that the country should stop its recent string of missile launches to set the stage for negotiations over its weapons programs. At the same venue, Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China said he told his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong-ho, that the North should stop carrying out nuclear and missile tests.
Incensed by the North’s two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month, the United Nations Security Council adopted a new sanctions resolution over the weekend, the eighth since the country conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. Backers of the resolution said the new sanctions would cut North Korea’s meager annual export revenue by about a third, impeding its ability to raise cash for its weapons programs.
Officials and analysts still doubt that North Korea has mastered the technology needed to deliver a nuclear payload on an intercontinental ballistic missile. But its last ICBM test, conducted on July 28, alarmed Washington and its allies by demonstrating that missiles now could potentially reach much the continental United States.
“North Korea’s development of ballistic missiles and its nuclear program are becoming increasingly real and imminent problems for the Asia-Pacific region including Japan, as well as the rest of the world,” the Japanese government said in an annual threat assessment released on Tuesday. “It is possible that North Korea has already achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has acquired nuclear warheads.”