Ignoring pleas from friends and foes alike, U.S. President Donald Trump continued to ratchet up his warlike rhetoric against North Korea with a new warning that any U.S. military option would be “devastating” for Pyongyang.
However, Trump added the caveat that the use of force was not Washington’s first option to deal with The North’s ballistic and nuclear weapons program.
“We are totally prepared for the second option, not a preferred option,” Trump said at a White House news conference, referring to military force. “But if we take that option, it will be devastating, I can tell you that, devastating for North Korea. That’s called the military option. If we have to take it, we will.”
The verbal missive came shortly after South Korea – whose densely-populated capital Seoul is located just 35 miles from the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean peninsula – urged its ally to tamp down the bellicose messaging.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha visited Washington and conveyed that, while Seoul is unsurprised by the aggressively defensive messaging of Pyongyang, “It is imperative that we, Korea and the U.S. together, manage the situation in order to prevent further escalation of tensions or any kind of accidental military clashes which can quickly go out of control."
Pyongyang's neighbor and ally China also urged both parties to recognize that any conflict would be damaging to all parties.
“We hope the U.S. and North Korean politicians have sufficient political judgment to realize that resorting to military force will never be a viable way to resolve the peninsula issue and their own concerns,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, visiting India, stressed that Washington wants a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis.
"We maintain the capability to deter North Korea's most dangerous threats but also to back up our diplomats in a manner that keeps this as long as possible in the diplomatic realm," he said in New Delhi after talks with his Indian counterpart.
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un traded barbs in the wake of the North's sixth nuclear bomb and multiple missile tests, fanning fears that the self-confessed “thin-skinned” commander in chief is on a collision course that could result in untold ramifications.
In his U.N. address last week, Trump delivered the blunt threat to "totally destroy" North Korea if provoked, deriding leader Kim Jong-un as "Rocket Man."
Kim hit back with a personal attack of his own, branding the U.S. head of state a "dotard" while warning he would "pay dearly."
North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, on Monday, called a press conference to hit back at a U.S. bomber mission near The North's coastline and a slew of bombastic warnings from the American president. The U.S. had gone further north of the demilitarized zone than any U.S. aircraft have flown this century.
Taking umbrage at a recent Trump tweet, Ri told reporters that the international community hoped that a "war of words" would "not turn into real actions," taken by either country.
"However, last weekend, Trump claimed our leadership would not be around much longer," said Ri, who attended this year's UN General Assembly session. "He declared a war on our country."