President Donald Trump has announced that the US military is “locked and loaded” to deal with North Korea, ramping up the rhetorical brinkmanship.
He tweeted: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong-un will find another path!”
President Trump spoke as North Korea accused him of “driving” the Korean peninsula to the “brink of a nuclear war”.
Pyongyang has announced plans to fire missiles near the US territory of Guam.
On August 11, Guam’s homeland security agency issued a fact sheet with tips for residents to prepare for any missile threat.
The sheet states: “Do not look at the flash or fireball – it can blind you.”
“Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.”
Russia said the exchange of threats between the US and North Korea “worry us very much”.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rated the risk of military conflict as “very high” as he put forward a joint Russian-Chinese plan to defuse the crisis.
President Trump’s tweet follows his threat earlier this week to rain “fire and fury” on Pyongyang.
His latest post came hours after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attempted to cool tensions by emphasizing a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
Speaking in California late on August 10, the Pentagon chief said it was his job to be ready for conflict.
However, he said the effort by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley “has diplomatic traction, it is gaining diplomatic results”.
Jim Mattis added: “The tragedy of war is well enough known. It doesn’t need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic.”
When asked about US military plans for a potential conflict, Jim Mattis said the country was ready, but he would not “tell the enemy in advance what I’m going to do”.
Also on August 11, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency accused the US of a “criminal attempt to impose nuclear disaster upon the Korean nation”.
North Korea’s media outlet said America was making “desperate efforts” to test weapons in the Korean peninsula.
Washington is “the mastermind of nuclear threat, the heinous nuclear war fanatic”, the report said.
Tensions have escalated since North Korea tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.
The regime was further angered by last week’s UN decision to increase economic sanctions against it.
North Korea has said it will within days finalize a plan to fire medium-to-long-range rockets towards Guam, where US strategic bombers are based, along with more than 160,000 US citizens.
There has been no indication that any actual attack on the Pacific island is imminent.
On August 10, President Trump suggested that his own statements on North Korea had not been tough enough, warning the regime to be “very, very nervous”.
However, the president added that the US would always consider negotiations.
Donald Trump also chided North Korea’s closest ally, China, saying it could do “a lot more”.
China’s state-run Global Times newspaper wrote that Beijing should stay neutral if North Korea launches an attack that threatens the US.
However, it also said that if the US and South Korea attacked North Korea to force regime change, then China must intervene to prevent it.