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August 24, 2017

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Trump: My 'fire and fury' threat to North Korea wasn't tough enough

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump doubled down on his harsh words against North Korea on Thursday, saying his "fire and fury" warning against the Pyongyang regime earlier this week "wasn't tough enough."

"It's about time somebody stuck up for the people of this country and the people of other countries, so if anything, maybe that statement wasn't tough enough," Trump told reporters at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is on vacation.

North Korea has threatened to attack the U.S. territory of Guam in the western Pacific amid an escalating war of words over its nuclear program and a series of recent missile tests.

U.S Defense Secretary James Mattis, meanwhile, warned that a war would be "catastrophic," and that a "diplomatically-led effort to get this under control" was "gaining traction."

Trump declined to say whether the U.S. might consider a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, but said he was still open to negotiation.

"North Korea better get its act together or they are going to be in trouble like few nations in this world have ever been in trouble," he said.

After meeting with his national security advisors, Trump said troop levels in Asia were among the things being considered, along with billions more in anti-missile spending.

He warned of dire consequences if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un follows through on the threat to attack Guam.

"If he does something in Guam, it will be something the likes of which have never happened before in North Korea," he said, declaring his remarks "not a dare" but a statement and also warning against threats to U.S. allies Japan and South Korea.

He expressed satisfaction with sanctions passed by the U.N. over the weekend but said he did not think they would be enough to change Pyongyang's behavior, after decades of failed talks.

The American people can be comfortable despite the rising threats, Trump said, because "if North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about an attack on anybody that we love or we represent or our allies or us, they can be very, very nervous."

"Because things will happen to them like they never thought possible," he said.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his country would come to the U.S.' aid if Pyongyang launched any attack on it. "The United States has no stronger ally than Australia," he said in a radio interview.

The U.S. and South Korea also have agreed to discuss in advance any steps they might take to contain the North Korean threat, a spokesman for South Korea's presidential office said, according to the Yonhap news agnecy.

The agreement followed a telephone conversation between U.S. National Security Advisor H R McMaster and his counterpart in Seoul, Chung Eui Yong.

North Korea on Thursday said it planned to fire rockets near the U.S. territory of Guam soon as a "crucial warning," adding that "only absolute force can work" on Trump.

In case of an attack on the territory, NATO allies would not be automatically required to provide military assistance to the U.S. under the collective defense pact, a NATO spokesperson said Thursday, noting that the island does not belong to the territory included in the agreement.

It would end up becoming a political decision by allies whether to respond to a request for assistance by the U.S. — which allies would be unlikely to reject, according to NATO diplomatic circles.

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