World

Trump boasts of nuclear arsenal, Tillerson says no imminent threat

US President persists with the strong rhetoric as stand-off with North Korea escalates

WASHINGTON: United States President Donald Trump followed up his incendiary warning to North Korea against threatening the US with a boast yesterday about the strength of America's nuclear arsenal, although he expressed hope it would not need to be used.

Mr Trump's Twitter messages about his nation's nuclear arsenal came after North Korea said it was considering plans for a missile strike on the US territory of Guam in the Pacific.

That in turn followed Mr Trump's comments on Tuesday that any North Korean threat to the US would be met with "fire and fury."

"My first order as President was to renovate and modernise our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before," Mr 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!"

RATTLED MARKETS

The sharp increase in tensions between a country that has one of the world's largest nuclear arsenals and an aspiring nuclear power rattled financial markets and prompted US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to try to play down the rhetoric.

While Mr Trump said the nuclear arsenal was more powerful than ever before, US officials say it takes decades to actually modernise nuclear weapons, a move that was already underway under former President Barack Obama's administration, and there are treaties that regulate nuclear expansion.

The Trump administration is still conducting a nuclear posture review.

Shortly before Mr Trump's remarks on the nuclear arsenal, Mr Tillerson landed in Guam for a previously scheduled visit after telling reporters he did not believe there was an imminent threat from North Korea and that "Americans should sleep well at night".

Mr Tillerson said that with his "fire and fury" warning, the US president was trying to use the kind of language that would resonate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea regularly threatens to destroy the US.

"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," Mr Tillerson said.

Earlier yesterday, North Korea said it was "carefully examining" a plan to strike Guam, which is home to about 163,000 people and a US 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 Mr Kim made a decision, a Korean People's Army spokesman said in a statement carried by state-run KCNA news agency.

UN SANCTIONS

The United Nations Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday over its missile and nuclear weapons programme.

On Mr Trump's comments, US Senator John McCain said the president should tread cautiously.

"You've got to be sure you can do what you say you're going to do," he said in a radio interview.

The top Democrat in the House of Representatives, Ms Nancy Pelosi, called Mr Trump's "fire and fury" comments "recklessly belligerent". - REUTERS

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