ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday defended President Trump’s forceful warning to North Korea to stop threatening the United States, but attempted to dismiss concerns that Guam is in any imminent danger from Pyongyang’s missiles.
“What the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” Tillerson said in an interview with two pool reporters while flying from Malaysia to a scheduled refueling stop in Guam.
“I think the president just wanted to be clear to the North Korean regime that the U.S. has the unquestionable ability to defend itself, will defend itself and its allies, and I think it was important that he deliver that message to avoid any miscalculation on their part.”
[Why Trump’s warning was “unnecessary, scary, irresponsible”]
On Tuesday, Trump sharply ratcheted up rhetoric against North Korea, saying it would face “fire and fury” if it does not stop threatening the United States. Trump did not make clear whether he was responding to the latest bellicose remarks from North Korea or a report in The Washington Post that the North had successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead capable of fitting inside its ballistic missiles.
Hours after Trump’s comments, North Korea said it was preparing to send intermediate-range missiles near Guam, which is home to more than 160,000 U.S. citizens, including some 6,000 members of the armed forces. U.S. bombers have flown out of Guam on their way to joint exercises with South Korea and Japan over the Korean Peninsula.
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