Trump, responding to a report that USA intelligence indicates Pyongyang can now put a nuclear warhead on its long-range missiles, vowed to rain down "fire and fury" if challenged.
The president's bombast was off the cuff, at a news conference on opioids in New Jersey.
Dunford is visiting South Korea, Japan and China after a week in which Trump declared the USA military "locked and loaded" and said he was ready to unleash "fire and fury" if North Korea continued to threaten the United States. In days since that threat was issued, Trump has doubled down, meeting with his national security staff to discuss ways to ameliorate the crisis or else confront the North militarily.
For his part Trump reached the White House via a career in property development and reality television, followed by an unprecedentedly populist election campaign that upended the United States political establishment.
"North Korea is not developing ICBM technology to start a war with the U.S".
The March missile launch was not as bold as the plan for Guam - the North didn't tell the world beforehand and deliberately sent the missiles much farther north than the base itself, an easy tweak.
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. Though it has been mostly lost as the current round of tough talk keeps escalating, North Korea just a few months ago conducted a similar rehearsal strike on a USA military base in Japan.
Are we out of viable options to stop North Korea from threatening the USA and its Pacific allies with nuclear terror?
But China, which accounts for 90 percent of the North's trade, has said it would not cut off humanitarian aid to the country's poverty-stricken population. But that will require cooperation from China, which the Trump administration has gone to great lengths to alienate.
The Japanese Defense Ministry on Saturday finished deploying Patriot missile defense systems in the country's south in anticipation of North Korea's possible strike on Guam, the state broadcaster NHK said. 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.
This escalation of threats could provoke Kim into doing something rash, which might in turn persuade Trump to order military retaliation.
Then again, if Trump keeps escalating his threats but does nothing, he will be seen as a paper tiger.
Trump should make clear, as part of an overall policy, that any use of WMD would result in a massive American reaction.
Both Moscow and Berlin expressed alarm over the rise in rhetoric over North Korea, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Pyongyang and Washington to sign up to a joint Russian-Chinese plan by which North Korea would freeze missile tests and the United States and South Korea would impose a moratorium on large-scale military exercises.
The US has been more successful in pressuring Australia, the European Union, Japan, and other US allies to strengthen unilateral sanctions on the North. That prospect presents a more immediate danger than does Pyongyang.