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August 22, 2017

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Trump: The US is 'locked and loaded'

The U.S. military is "locked and loaded" against a potential nuclear threat from North Korea, President Donald Trump has warned, as Russia says the risks of war with Pyongyang are "very high."

"Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!" Trump tweeted on Friday.

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

Trump has doubled down on his threats against North Korea since vowing "fire and fury" against the reclusive regime on Tuesday, saying the warning "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 Thursday at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is on vacation.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has 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.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that "the risks are very high" that the U.S. and North Korea could go to war.

There have been "direct threats of using force," Lavrov said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.

He reiterated that Russia believes North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons is "unacceptable."

Russia and China have the relatively closest diplomatic relations with the insular state of North Korea.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for calm as she made her first statements after returning from holiday.

Merkel rejected a military solution to the North Korean crisis.

"An escalation of the language is for me the wrong response," the chancellor said following the exchanges between Trump and North Korea.

"I also don't see a military solution (to the conflict) and do not consider it necessary," Merkel told a press conference in Berlin.

Instead, Merkel called for all sides to the crisis, including the United States, South Korea and Japan to work closely together with the United Nations.

North Korea carried out its second intercontinental missile test on July 28, later claiming that it now had the capability to reach all of the U.S. mainland.

In response, the U.N. imposed its harshest sanctions yet on the reclusive nation. They are expected to cut North Korea's export revenues by one third.

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