The United States is "locked and loaded" to initiate military action against North Korea if it acted unwisely, American President Donald Trump warned on Friday, while hoping the country's dictator Kim Jong Un will avoid the path of confrontation as the two countries hurtled towards a nuclear showdown.
"Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!" Trump tweeted on Friday morning after Pyongyang responded to his earlier message promising to rain unprecedented "fire and fury" on North Korea by calling his threat "utter nonsense" and in turn warned that it will demonstrate its nuclear prowess by firing four missiles around the US territory of Guam.
North Korea's belligerence clearly got to Trump and his aides, and the US President, already known for his volatile temperament, bristled at the chutzpah of the country that Washington clearly regards as a nuclear upstart.
"He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody's seen before, what will happen in North Korea," Trump said in a separate tete-e-tete with reporters replete with digressions on a range of topics.
Asked if that was a dare, Trump bristled, saying, "It's not a dare. It's a statement. It has nothing to do with dare. That's a statement. He's not going to go around threatening Guam and he's not going to threaten the United States and he's not going to threaten Japan and he's not going to threaten South Korea. No, that's not a dare, as you say. That is a statement of fact."
Shortly after his "locked and loaded" tweet, Trump retweeted a message from the US Pacific Command in which it said "#USAF B-1B Lancer #bombers on Guam stand ready to fulfill USFK's #FightTonight mission if called upon to do so." USFK stands for United States Forces Korea, a sub-unified command of United States Pacific Command (USPACOM).
Trump also took the opportunity to make another unscripted assertion about US nuclear policy, saying, he would like to 'de-nuke' the world and have "Russia, the United States and China and Pakistan and many other countries that have nuclear weapons get rid of them... but until such time that they do, we will be the most powerful nuclear nation on earth, by far."
Such impromptu, off-the-cuff remarks, whether about using nuclear weapons or about recasting US nuclear policy is unprecedented in Presidential history, but Trump has departed from all known White House norms even as aides are scrambling to either contain him, dial down the impact of his words, or simply recast his words in more nuanced language.
For instance Defense Secretary James Mattis, when asked Thursday about the American military's readiness for action, said, "I don't tell the enemy in advance what I'm going to do. Our readiness, we are ready," while leaving no doubt that North Korea is "grossly overmatched" would be overwhelmed if it chose confrontation.
But Trump appears to have taken offense at North Korea's belligerence, expressed frequently in florid language, that previous presidents largely ignored.
"He has disrespected our country greatly, he has said things that are horrific," Trump said about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after the country's announcement about a possible missile strike near Guam. "And with me, he's not getting away with it...it's a whole new ballgame."