WASHINGTON/SEOUL – President Donald Trump followed up his strong warning to North Korea against threatening the United States with tweets on Wednesday about the strength of the American nuclear arsenal, although he expressed hope it would not need to be used.
Trump’s Twitter messages about the nuclear arsenal came after North Korea said it was considering plans for a missile strike on the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. That in turn followed Trump’s comments on Tuesday that any North Korean threat to the United States would be met with “fire and fury.”
“My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before,” Trump tweeted. “Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!”
Earlier on Wednesday, North Korea said it was “carefully examining” a plan to strike Guam, which is home to about 163,000 people and a U.S. military base that includes a submarine squadron, an airbase and a Coast Guard group.
The plan would be put into practice at any moment, once Kim Jong Un made a decision, a Korean People’s Army spokesman said in a statement carried by state-run KCNA news agency.
Guam Governor Eddie Calvo dismissed the threat and said the island was prepared for “any eventuality” with strategically placed defenses. He said he had been in touch with the White House and there was no change in the threat level.
“Guam is American soil … We are not just a military installation,” Calvo said in an online video message.
Washington has warned it is ready to use force if needed to stop North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs but that it prefers global diplomatic action, including sanctions. The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday.
North Korea has made no secret of its plans to develop a nuclear-tipped missile able to strike the United States and has ignored all calls to halt its weapons programs.
Pyongyang says its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are a legitimate means of defense against perceived U.S. hostility, including joint military drills with South Korea.
South Korea and the United States remain technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty. The South Korean capital, Seoul, is home to roughly 10 million people and within range of massed North Korean rockets and artillery, which would be impossible to destroy in a first U.S. strike.
Tens of thousands of U.S. troops remain stationed in South Korea and in nearby Japan, the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons. Wednesday was the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city of Nagasaki by the United States.
Tension in the region has risen since North Korea carried out two nuclear bomb tests last year and two ICBM tests in July. Japanese fighters conducted joint air drills with U.S. supersonic bombers in Japanese skies close to the Korean peninsula on Tuesday, Japan’s Air Self Defence Force said.
On Monday, two U.S. B-1 bombers flew from Guam over the Korean peninsula as part of its “continuous bomber presence”, a U.S. official said, in a sign of the island’s strategic importance.