McMaster says Trump will be Trump in Asia, won't moderate rhetoric on North Korea

Trump's whirlwind Asia tour: The big issues
Trump's whirlwind Asia tour: The big issues

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Story highlights

  • "The President will use whatever language he wants to use, obviously," McMaster said
  • He also told reporters that Trump is considering putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism

(CNN)Ahead of President Donald Trump's five-country, 12-day trip to Asia, his top national security adviser is making one thing clear: The President won't be moderating his language in the region.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters on Thursday, less than 24 hours before the President departs for his trip, that Trump doesn't plan to change his bellicose rhetoric on North Korea even though he will be nearby when he visits Japan, South Korea and China.
"The President will use whatever language he wants to use, obviously," McMaster said. "I don't think the President really modulates his language. I mean, have you noticed him do that? He has been very clear about that."
    Trump has reacted to North Korea's saber-rattling and missile tests with combative rhetoric and pledges to respond with "fire and fury." The rhetoric has not alleviated tensions in the region and has left some critics questioning whether the President underestimated North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
    McMaster noted that while he has seen the criticism of Trump's rhetoric, he countered that it is only North Korea's activities that are inflammatory.
    "Inflammatory is the North Korean regime and what they're doing to threaten the world," McMaster said.
    McMaster also told reporters that Trump is considering putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation the country lost under President George W. Bush in 2008.
    "That is an option that is under consideration," he said. "And so, the President's Cabinet is looking at this as part of the overall strategy on North Korea." He added that reporters will "hear more about that soon."
    Under sanctions legislation signed by Trump in August, the State Department must report to Congress by Thursday whether it will re-designate North Korea.
    The Trump administration has faced mounting bipartisan calls to relist North Korea in the face of the growing threat from Pyongyang. Administration officials say the designation is a technical one, based on a statutory standard. Several US officials said that the administration has not made a decision and is expected to notify Congress that it is still reviewing the matter.
    The officials said the decision would likely be made after Trump's trip to Asia.
    Thae Yong-ho, a former high-ranking North Korean official who defected to South Korea, endorsed adding North Korea back to the state sponsor of terrorism list during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
    "Once relisted, it will be easier to drive them from global financial systems and convince other world partners to detect the channels North Korea uses to fund its nuclear development," Thae said.
    Adding them back to the list will also increase the effectiveness of sanctions, he added.
    Thae was number two in the North Korean embassy in London before he escaped with his wife and two sons, arriving in South Korea in 2016.