President Donald Trump suggested on Thursday that his earlier warning to North Korea that it would be “met with fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the U.S. “wasn’t tough enough,” and he cautioned North Korean officials to “get their act together” regarding its nuclear ambitions.
Before reporters at his New Jersey golf club, Trump addressed the United States’ rising tensions with North Korea and doubled down on his Tuesday threat to the nation’s leader, Kim Jong Un, saying the country would be in trouble “like few nations have ever been.”
“Things will happen to them that they never thought possible,” said Trump.
The past week has found the two countries engaging in increasingly hostile rhetoric. In a statement released through North Korea’s state-run news service Wednesday, the country’s military said it was developing a plan to fire missiles at the U.S. territory of Guam.
Trump’s “fire and fury” remark on Tuesday followed reports that North Korea produced a nuclear weapon small enough to fit inside a missile.
Members of Trump’s Cabinet offered differing views on the situation earlier in the week. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that North Korea would see any hostile actions “grossly overmatched” by the U.S. and would lose any “conflict it initiates,” while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters during a trip back from a regional summit in the Philippines that Trump was simply using language North Korea understands and that the U.S. does not “seek to be a threat.”
Trump pushed back against the suggestion that his administration was being inconsistent.
“There are no mixed messages,” he said. “Rex was just, you know, stating the view. Look, here’s the view: I said it yesterday. I don’t have to say it again. I’ll tell you this, it may be tougher than I said it, not less. It may very well be tougher than I said it.”
Trump was asked Thursday about a statement from North Korea’s military — which described the “fire and fury” comment as a “load of nonsense” and called him a “guy bereft of reason.”
“They’ve been doing this to our country for a long time, many years. It’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries,” he responded. “So if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough. And we’re backed by 100 percent by our military. And we’re backed by many other leaders.”
Trump refused to say whether he would consider a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, using the opportunity to criticize the Obama administration for announcing its military plans, but he was more forthcoming about his view of previous presidents’ diplomatic efforts.
“They’ve been negotiating now for 25 years. Look at [Bill] Clinton. He folded on the negotiations. He was weak and ineffective. You look what happened with [George W.] Bush. You look what happened with [Barack] Obama. Obama, he didn’t even want to talk about it,” Trump said.