About the Author
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that Americans should have “no concerns” amid heightened tensions and rhetoric on North Korea, in comments made to CNN on Wednesday.
Seeking to clarify recent comments by President Donald Trump in which he said the U.S. would respond to the North Korean threats with “fire and fury,” Tillerson said Trump had sought to send a strong message to Pyongyang.
“I think Americans should sleep well at night and should have no concerns about this particular rhetoric over the last few days I think that the President again – as commander in chief – I think he felt it necessary to issue a very strong statement directly to North Korea,” Tillerson told CNN on Wednesday.
Trump told reporters on Tuesday that North Korea should stop making threats towards the U.S. or “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
While not in direct response to Trump’s comments, North Korean state media issued a warning hours later saying the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) is examining an operational plan for a medium-to-long-range ballistic missile attack on the island of Guam.
A separate statement released on Wednesday by the North Korean military threatened strikes against U.S. military assets and the mainland, as well as saying Seoul would be turned into “a sea of fire” if Washington pursued military action against the DPRK.
“I think what the President was just reaffirming is the United States has the capability to fully defend itself from any attack and defend our allies and we will do so,” he added.
The Secretary of State said Trump’s statement was intended to send a message to Kim Jong Un in a way the North Korean leader “would understand.”
“The North Koreans rhetoric has just ratcheted up louder and louder and more threatening I think what the President, what the President was doing, was sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” he said.
Wednesday’s assurances from Tillerson are not the first time he has taken a softer tone to that of the President regarding North Korea.
Despite growing tensions and heightened rhetoric, on August 1, Tillerson told Pyongyang that the U.S. did not seek regime change.
“We do not seek the collapse of the regime,” Tillerson told reporters in Washington DC. “We do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula. We do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel.”
“We are not your enemy… We are not your threat, but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us and we have to respond,” he added.
North Korea’s statement on Tuesday regarding Guam was, it said, a response to the U.S.’s test launch of the Minuteman-3 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base and of the recent arrival of six B-1B Lancers at the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: U.S. PACOM