North Korea dismisses Trump’s threat, warns of ‘absolute force’

Tens of thousands of North Koreans gathered for a rally at Kim Il Sung Square carrying placards and propaganda slogans as a show of support for their rejection of the United Nations’ latest round of sanctions on Wednesday Aug. 9, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea on Wednesday officially dismissed President Donald Trump’s threats of “fire and fury,” declaring the American leader “bereft of reason” and warning ominously, “Only absolute force can work on him.”

In a statement released on state media, General Kim Rak Gyom, who heads North Korea’s rocket command, also said his country was “about to take” military action near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. He said the North would finalize a plan by mid-August involving mid-range missiles hitting waters 30 to 40 kilometers (19 to 25 miles) away from the island.

The plan will then go to the commander in chief of North Korea’s nuclear force and “wait for his order,” Kim was quoted by KCNA as saying. He called it a “historic enveloping fire at Guam.”

A man takes a photo of a TV news program in Tokyo, showing an image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

The statement only served to escalate tensions even further in a week that has seen a barrage of threats from both sides. While nuclear confrontation still seems incredibly remote, the comments have sparked deep unease in the United States, Asia and beyond.

A day after evoking the use of overwhelming U.S. military might, Trump touted America’s atomic supremacy. He said his first order as president was to “renovate and modernize” an arsenal that is “now far stronger and more powerful than ever before.”

It was a rare public flexing of America’s nuclear might. And Trump’s boasting only added to the confusion over his administration’s approach to dealing with North Korea’s expanding nuclear capabilities on a day when his top national security aides wavered between messages of alarm and reassurance.

If Trump’s goal with two days of tough talk was to scare North Korea, Kim, the commander, put that idea quickly to rest.

He called Trump’s rhetoric a “load of nonsense” that was aggravating a grave situation.

“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him,” the KNCA report quoted him saying.

Kim said the Guam action would be “an effective remedy for restraining the frantic moves of the U.S. in the southern part of the Korean peninsula and its vicinity.”

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement Wednesday about the ongoing tension between

North Korea’s pursuit and development of nuclear weapons represent a serious threat to the security of the United States and our allies. However, President Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric undermines our global credibility and is unlikely to de-escalate the situation. We need fewer fiery words and bombastic tweets from the President and his cable TV surrogates, and more effort to work with our international partners to expand missile defense and deterrence and put forward a strategy to roll back North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

On Saturday, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to impose new sanctions on North Korea, for the eighth time since its first nuclear test in 2006. While it’s a productive step, we need to focus on enforcement, and ensure that China in particular adheres to the terms of the sanctions.

It’s also imperative that the Trump Administration embrace a robust policymaking process to think through all of our options, and be prepared to be realistic about what response the North Korean threat might require. Improvising our way into a shooting war on the Korean peninsula without a plan puts us all at risk. Moreover, this crisis underscores the importance of sending nominations to the Senate for key national security positions, including an Ambassador to South Korea, an Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian Pacific Security Affairs.”

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman with the State Department said Wednesday that the sanctions issued against the regime Saturday are working.

“We’ve talked about our pressure campaign. The United States pressure campaign is backed by many other nations. We see that pressure campaign, which is a long term campaign, but that campaign is working. It is ratcheting up the pressure on North Korea,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.