BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President Donald Trump further escalated his rhetorical standoff with North Korea Friday morning, saying the U.S. was ready to respond militarily should the rogue nation “act unwisely.”
“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!” he tweeted.
Trump has refused to back down in his verbal confrontation with the North Korean leader, suggesting to reporters Thursday that his threat to unleash “fire and fury” may not have gone far enough.
“Maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Trump said past administrations had not done enough to take on North Korea and that it is time a president “stuck up for the country.”
The standoff between the two nuclear nations has unsettled regional allies, some of which are scrambling to work out how to respond to the sudden escalation.
At the center of the geopolitical storm is the tiny island of Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean.
It’s home to a U.S. Navy base and the Andersen Air Force Base, from which American B-1B bombers conducted sorties over the Korean peninsula Tuesday, provoking the ire of Pyongyang’s leadership and an escalating war of words between the U.S. and North Korea.
On Thursday, North Korean state media KCNA said military leaders were working on a proposal to launch four intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missiles into the sea less than 25 miles off Guam’s coast.
KCNA said the plan would presented to Kim by mid-August.
Guam’s Homeland Security Advisor George Charfauros said Friday it would take 14 minutes for a missile fired from North Korea to reach Guam.
“It’s a 14-minute flight time if all the factors are successful and if it gets through all the US defense layers in place,” Charfauros said.
North Korea had previously said the flight time would be 1,065 seconds, or just less than 18 minutes.
On Thursday, Trump replied to North Korea’s threat to hit Guam with a threat of his own.
“Let’s see what he does with Guam,” Trump said in apparent reference to Kim. “He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before.
“You’ll see, you’ll see. And he’ll see.”
Two of the U.S.’ regional allies, South Korea and Japan, are taking steps to counter a potential escalation of tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.
Japan’s new defense minister, Itsunori Onodera, said Thursday that Japan would “take the necessary measures,” to defend itself from any strike.
Japan is in possession of U.S.-supplied missile shield technology, including Patriot PAC-3 batteries, but these would likely need to be redeployed to have any chance of shooting down North Korean missiles.
KCNA said its missiles would fly over three prefectures of Japan — Hiroshima, Kochi and Shimane — part of a corridor across Japan that does not have PAC launchers in place.
The Japanese Defense Ministry said no PAC-3 batteries were being deployed to those areas.
In any case, the effective range of the Patriots is very limited, Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corporation said.
“If North Korea launches where they launched the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 28, (Japan) won’t be able to reach that far with the Patriot,” Bennett said.
South Korean presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun told journalists the country’s top national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, had spoken with his U.S. counterpart, H.R. McMaster, with the North Korean threat at the top of the agenda.
“The two sides reaffirmed their promise to closely and transparently work together on the step-by-step moves that they will take in order to ensure the security of both South Korea and the United States, as well as the safety of the people,” Park said.
An editorial published in Chinese state-controlled newspaper Global Times on Friday said if North Korea launches missiles at the U.S., China will remain neutral, but if the U.S. and South Korea initiate hostilities, China will take action.
It added China maintains an anti-nuclear, anti-war and anti-chaos policy on the Korean Peninsula and it will resist any attempt to change the status quo.
While the Global Times is a state-sanctioned tabloid, its views do not always represent official Chinese government policies.