Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program will soon have the ability to threaten the American mainland, U.S. President Donald Trump warned in his first State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday evening.
In an over hour-long speech to American lawmakers, Trump condemned North Korea as “depraved” and “cruel,” and touted his administration’s policy of maximum pressure on the DPRK.
“North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland,” the President said. “We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening.”
Saying that past administrations had taught Washington that “complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation” Trump said he would “not repeat the mistakes” of his predecessors.
The President comments on the North Korean nuclear program echo those by CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Monday, who warned that Pyongyang would have the ability to strike the United States with a nuclear weapon within “a handful of months.”
North Korea in November last year announced the test launch of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which state media has claimed was capable of striking the “entire” U.S. mainland.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in his New Year’s Speech warned the United States that Pyongyang could reach the entire U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons at any time.
“Our nation’s nuclear force can smash and respond to any nuclear threat from the U.S. and our strong deterrence can suppress the U.S. from playing with fire…” Kim said.
It also came hours after it was revealed that the White House will not be appointing former Bush administration official Victor Cha as U.S. ambassador to South Korea, a decision reportedly driven, in part, by his stated opposition to a limited preventative strike against the DPRK.
And while the President used Tuesday’s speech to primarily focus on domestic affairs, North Korea was one of the top foreign policy issues of the night.
In the audience was the family of the late Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died last year after returning from an over year-long captivity in North Korea.
“You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires us all,” the President said, addressing Cindy and Fred Warmbier. “Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory with total American resolve.”
Also present in the audience was Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean defector who was seriously injured during the famine of the 1990s before escaping in 2004.
“Today he lives in Seoul, where he rescues other defectors, and broadcasts into North Korea what the regime fears the most – the truth,” President Trump said. “Seong-ho’s story is a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom.”
The President, however, made no mention of a recent seeming cooling in relations between the two Koreas – who have recently engaged in their first high-level talks since 2015 and agreed on a range of cooperative events at the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics in the South.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in in his New Year’s Speech earlier in the month praised Trump for his role in making the talks happen, saying he deserved “very big credit” and expressing his gratitude.
Featured image: White House