North Korea threatened to attack Guam after President Trump offered a short and stern warning against any such action against the United States. This is the kind of extreme military rhetoric by a USA president the world has never seen, except by Harry S. Truman before bombing Nagasaki.
The conversation followed a threat by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to target the island with missiles amid a spike in tensions between the US and North Korea.
But a preemptive war is not on the horizon, with one key caveat: My prediction may soon reverse if Trump's team can't muzzle the president. And that missile test led to nary a tweet from Trump.
It also has brought a rush of speculation about the brinkmanship at play - including trying to understand the moves and motives of the North's leader, Kim Jong Un. It wants to influence American decisions. So Kim is willing to raise his threat level to scare off the Americans.
The missile plans were previously announced, and Kim said North Korea would conduct the launches if the "Yankees persist in their extremely unsafe reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity" and that the United States should "think reasonably and judge properly" to avoid shaming itself, the news agency said. "This is tragicomedy of its own making".
China is unlikely to pressure North Korea at Trump's request while the US sells $1.4 billion of arms to Taiwan and accuses China of human rights violations.
North Korea's Minju Joson newspaper, meanwhile, lashed back at the U.S.in an editorial Saturday.
As cable TV prepared to go to DEFCON 1, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson popped up to smooth everything over with a generous helping of diplo-speak. He said America does "not seek a regime change" or collapse, or an accelerated reunification of the two Koreas.
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He added, "We will see what happens".
Many in Washington and the diplomatic community have criticised Mr Trump for his "fire and fury" comments to North Korea, saying that it does regional peace no good to mimic Kim Jong-un's bombastic rhetoric. That was the obvious flaw in the Obama administration's "strategic patience" approach, as it became steadily clear that a catalogue of sanctions and stern warnings would not deflect North Korea from pursuing its strategic ambitions.
No guarantee of success, but given the likelihood of hundreds of thousands of Korean and Japanese deaths should a new Korean war break out, a policy worth pursuing.
The public response from Trump then was muted.
Such threats are not at all new for Guamanians, and awareness among mainland Americans is simply heightened now because of the attention from the media, said Metcalfe, a national committeewoman for the Republican Party of Guam who ran for Congress in 2014 and 2016. As CNN pointed out, Trump frequently uses the phrase "like the world has never seen" to brag about his achievements, but in this case the intended audience is not his fan base and the phraseology implies nuclear war.
Kim "probably thinks he's going to be around after Trump is gone", he points out.
The North then came out with a threat to lob four intermediate-range "Hwasong-12" missiles near Guam, a tiny USA territory2,000 miles from Pyongyang. While there are no rhetorical "off-ramps" in sight, the costs of war are so high that North Korea and the U.S. will probably learn to deter each other, provided both can master the more clinical vocabulary and syntax of nuclear deterrence as it was practiced during the Cold War. "That's a commonality between Kim and Trump".
This threat was not made in response to Trump's "fire and fury" remarks - the wheels of Kim's bureaucracy move more slowly than Trump's - but rather in reaction to the USA launching a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on August 2. They have been "playing" the United States for years. But experts aren't convinced the bomb could make it all that way intact.
The US has been more successful in pressuring Australia, the European Union, Japan, and other US allies to strengthen unilateral sanctions on the North. Trump later said that those comments may not have been "tough enough." That prospect presents a more immediate danger than does Pyongyang.