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Donald Trump has warned North Korea to expect “big, big trouble” if it takes action against the US and declared the his military “locked and loaded” ready to retaliate.
He vowed the leader of the communist country, Kim Jong-Un, “will regret it fast” if he fires nuclear missiles on American territories or allies.
The President issued the stark warnings on Friday as the stand-off between the two nations continued to escalate.
North Korea previously announced plans to fire missiles near the US territory of Guam.
“If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat – which by the way he has been uttering for years and his family has been uttering for years – or he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast,” Mr Trump told reporters at his New Jersey golf resort.
Asked if the US was going to war, he said cryptically: “I think you know the answer to that.”
The compounding threats came in a week in which long-standing tensions between the countries risked abruptly boiling over.
UN sanctions condemning the North’s rapidly developing nuclear programme drew fresh anger and threats from Pyongyang.
And Mr Trump responded by vowing to rain down “fire and fury” if challenged and the North then threatened to lob missiles near Guam, a tiny US territory some 2,000 miles from Pyongyang.
But Mr Trump’s latest comments did not appear to be backed by significant military mobilisation on either side of the Pacific.
And talks between senior US and North Korean diplomats continue through a back channel previously used to negotiate the return of Americans held in North Korea.
The talks, which have expanded to address the deterioration of the relationship, have not quelled tensions, but could be a foundation for a more diplomacy, according to US officials and others briefed on the process.
On Friday morning, Mr Trump tweeted: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
He declined later brushed off calls for caution from world leaders, including Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel.
“I don’t see a military solution and I don’t think it’s called for,” Mrs Merkel said. She called on the United Nations Security Council to continue to address the crisis, saying: “I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer.”
“Let her speak for Germany,” Mr Trump retorted, when asked about the comment.
“Perhaps she is referring to Germany. She’s certainly not referring to the United States, that I can tell you.”
But by evening, after a briefing with top advisers and standing next to his secretary of state and UN ambassador, the president suggested diplomacy could yet prevail.
“Hopefully it’ll all work out,” he said. “Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump.”
The president said he intended to speak to China’s president Xi Jinping, whom he has pushed to pressure North Korea to halt a nuclear weapons programme that is nearing the capability of targeting the United States.
Mr Trump announced he planned to hold another press conference in Washington on Monday.
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