WASHINGTON — Amid rising tensions Friday, President Donald Trump repeatedly warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that “he will truly regret it” if he makes any overt threats or attacks on U.S. territories or allies.
And referring to North Korea’s threat to fire missiles near the island of Guam, a U.S. territory and major Air Force base in the western Pacific, Trump said, “If anything happens to Guam there is going to be big, big trouble in North Korea.”
Trump issued his strongly worded warnings on Twitter and in two meetings with reporters at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he met with his top diplomatic officials.
His intimations of military reprisals prompted concerns from other world leaders, including in Germany and Russia.
Leon Panetta, a former presidential chief of staff, CIA director and defense secretary, said on CNN he believes North Korea is the worst crisis since the Cuba missile crisis in 1961, and urged Trump to temper his comments.
Trump said he had scheduled a telephone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday evening. Xi so far has not applied the pressure to North Korea that Trump wanted.
After meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley last Friday, Trump appeared with them and said he hoped to end the “dangerous situation.”
“Hopefully it will work out,” he said. “ Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump.”
Tillerson agreed. He said while Trump “made it clear he prefers a diplomatic solution,” the president also was “making sure North Korea understands what the stakes are.”
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA accused Trump of “driving the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war.” Kim has not personally responded, Trump said.
Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said Moscow is deeply concerned about a “very high” risk of conflict, and urged Trump to “step back from the brink.”
To start the day Friday, 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!”
At a midday meeting with reporters, Trump said, “If he utters one threat, in the form of an overt threat . . . or if he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that is an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast.”
And he dismissed calls to stop his strongly worded statements.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged him to avoid a conflict and instead rely on the UN Security Council. The council voted last Saturday to impose sanctions on North Korea for its launch of two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month. “Let her speak for Germany,” Trump said.
And he dismissed criticism. “My critics are only saying that because it’s me,” he said, adding millions of Americans like his tough talk because he’s “sticking up for our nation.”
The tension between the United States and North Korea has been growing since Trump took office six months ago, as North Korea has tested its capability to launch nuclear missiles.
On Tuesday, Trump said any threats from North Korea would be “met with fire and fury and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Hours later, North Korea said it was considering a strike that would create “an enveloping fire” around the island of Guam. And Trump on Thursday responded to critics of his fiery rhetoric: “Maybe it wasn’t tough enough.”