The conflict escalated after a subsequent warning from Trump, using language similar to the North’s own frequent saber rattling: If it were to make any more threats against the U.S., the president said, Pyongyang “will be met with fire, fury, and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Trump then strengthened his rhetoric again on Thursday, saying “maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.” He did not comment on whether the U.S. is considering a pre-emptive strike on North Korea.
Trump’s latest warning comes as China’s state-run newspaper said Beijing should remain neutral if North Korea launches an attack that threatens the United States. Pyongyang has threatened to fire missiles near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.
“China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” the Global Times, which is widely read but does not represent government policy, said in an editorial.
“If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so,” it said.
Trump has attempted to leverage China, North Korea’s only major ally, to apply more economic pressure on the isolated regime. On Thursday, he said Beijing “can” and “will” do a lot more to keep North Korea in check.
He also warned on Thursday that, “if [Kim Jong Un] does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody’s seen before, what will happen in North Korea.”
—CNBC’s Leslie Shaffer and Reuters contributed to this report