Guam's governor has praised President Donald Trump's increasingly tough talk against North Korea. Senior US security officials say a military confrontation between the United States and North Korea isn't imminent.
Guam's governor says Donald Trump's tough words are just what the doctor ordered as North Korea increases its threats to his tiny US territory. Eddie Calvo, a Republican, like the president, said critics had unfairly assessed Trump's handling of the standoff, which escalated last week when North Korea announced plans to launch four intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missiles toward Guam - which lies about 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) from Pyongyang in the Pacific Ocean - as a "crucial warning."
In an interview with AFP, Calvo called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "a bully with some very strong weapons" and said "a bully has to be countered very strongly."
On Saturday North Korea's Minju Joson newspaper promised an army "capable of fighting any war the US wants." Trump called his own military "locked and loaded" for provocations from North Korea.
Calvo said North Korea has threatened Guam - which hosts two large military bases and more than 6,000 US troops and support staff - at least three times since 2013. He added that previous presidents had also used strong words against their counterparts in Pyongyang, pointing out that just last year Barack Obama said "we could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals."
'Closer to war' or not?
In separate interviews Sunday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, reassured viewers that the US and North Korea could still avoid a conflict. However, they said the United States and its allies could no longer afford to stand by as North Korea pushes ahead with the development of a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.
"We're not closer to war than a week ago - but we are closer to war than we were a decade ago," McMaster said, adding that the administration would deal with North Korea militarily if necessary.
"There's nothing imminent today," Pompeo said. He added that US leaders have a "pretty good idea" of the intentions of their counterparts in Pyongyang but declined to provide specifics.
South Korean officials believe that their counterparts in the North will need at least two years to acquire the necessary tech for long-range strikes, although its ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead has advanced quickly. "Both the United States and South Korea do not believe North Korea has yet completely gained re-entry technology in material engineering terms," Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk said in remarks televised on Sunday for a Korea Broadcasting System show.
mkg/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)