United States President Donald Trump. (Reuters)
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BEDMINSTER, NJ/SEOUL – President Donald Trump issued a new threat to North Korea on Friday, saying the US military was “locked and loaded” as Pyongyang accused him of driving the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war and world powers expressed alarm.
The Pentagon said the United States and South Korea would proceed as planned with a joint military exercise in ten days, an action sure to further antagonise North Korea. Meanwhile, Russia, China and Germany voiced dismay at the escalating rhetoric from Pyongyang and Washington.
Trump, vacationing at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort, kept up the war of words and again referenced North Korea’s leader in his latest bellicose remarks toward Pyongyang this week. “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” he wrote on Twitter. “Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
The term “locked and loaded,” popularised in the 1949 war film Sands of Iwo Jima starring American actor John Wayne, refers to preparations for shooting a gun.
Friday’s tweet by the Republican president, a wealthy businessman and former reality television personality, came shortly after the North Korean state news agency, KCNA, put out a statement blaming him for the boiling tensions.
“Trump is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war, making such outcries as ‘the US will not rule out a war against the DPRK (North Korea),’” KCNA said.
Guam, the Pacific island that is a US territory, posted emergency guidelines on Friday to help residents prepare for any potential nuclear attack after a threat from North Korea to fire missiles in its vicinity.
“Do not look at the flash or fireball – It can blind you,” the guidelines stated. “Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.”
Guam is home to a strategically located US air base, a Navy installation, a Coast Guard group and roughly 6 000 US military personnel. KCNA said on Thursday the North Korean army would complete plans in mid-August to fire four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land in the sea 18 to 25 miles (30-40 km) from Guam.
Trump on Friday retweeted a message from the US military command in the Pacific saying American B-1B Lancer bombers on Guam “stand ready” if called upon for use in the crisis.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a day after returning from an Asia trip that included a stop in Guam, was set to meet with Trump and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in Bedminster on Friday.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Pyongyang and Washington to sign up to a previously unveiled joint Russian-Chinese plan under which North Korea would freeze missile tests and the United States and South Korea would impose a moratorium on large-scale military exercises. Neither the United States nor North Korea has embraced the plan.
Lavrov said the risks of a military conflict over North Korea’s nuclear programme are very high and Moscow is deeply worried by the threats from Washington and Pyongyang.
“Unfortunately, the rhetoric in Washington and Pyongyang is now starting to go over the top,” Lavrov said on live state television at a forum for Russian students. “We still hope and believe that common sense will prevail.” (Reuters)