The situation remains extremely tense after North Korea launched a missile over northern Japan on Monday.
The President struck a noticeably more measured tone than some of his previous statements.
The month of August has been a roller coaster of fluctuating tensions for the US and North Korea, accentuated by a war of words between the leaders of both nations.
At times, President Donald Trump’s words have nearly mirrored the notoriously aggressive threats of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and at others he seems to suggest signs of progress toward hopes of a diplomatic resolution.
But despite the ebb and flow of rhetoric coming from the White House and consistently provocative threats by Pyongyang in recent weeks, the situation remains extremely tense after North Korea launched a missile over northern Japan on Monday – a move that sparked another direct rebuke from Trump.
Though this time the President struck a noticeably more measured tone than some of his previous statements despite another apparent escalation from Pyongyang.
Trump: “The world has received North Korea’s latest message loud and clear … “Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table.”
The striking similarity between Tuesday’s comments and past promises from previous administrations that they are “keeping all options on the table” seems to suggest that weeks of verbal jousting – ranging from threats of nuclear destruction to optimistic suggestions of progress – have come full-circle.
’Fire and fury’
Tensions soared in early August after Trump significantly ratcheted up his rhetoric toward North Korea in the wake of news that the rogue nation has successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead to fit into an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Trump: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen… he has been very threatening beyond a normal state. They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Those reportedly ad-libbed remarks came just hours after Trump cheered the UN security Council’s unanimous approval of additional sanctions against North Korea – a move widely considered as a major diplomatic achievement.
Trump: “After many years of failure,countries are coming together to finally address the dangers posed by North Korea. We must be tough & decisive!” Trump wrote in a tweet.
In response, North Korea issued an unusually specific and provocative warning, threatening to send four missiles toward Guam while ridiculing Trump for spouting “a load of nonsense.”
Top US officials spent the next several days trying to clarify Trump’s “fire and fury” remarks, as Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated that the US’ preference was to resolve the situation through diplomacy while warning an attack on Guam would be met with severe consequences.
Signs of US optimism
On August 15, Kim appeared to back away from his threat to fire missiles toward Guam, but also seemed to put the onus to act on Trump, saying he would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees.”
North Korea: Kim has “examined the (strike) plan for a long time and discussed it with the commanding officers in real earnest.”
On August 16, Trump signaled that he viewed Kim’s move to hold off on plans to launch a missile near Guam as a sign of progress in an early morning tweet.
Trump: “Kim Jong Un of North Korea made a very wise and well reasoned decision. The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!”
Despite continued threats from North Korea, including an August 20 warning that the US was risking an “uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war” if it followed through with joint military drills with South Korea, Trump and Tillerson continued to strike an optimistic tone.