At a White House news conference on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said military strikes are not the preferred solution for North Korea but warned that the military option will be “devastating” if he feels compelled to authorize it.
“We are totally prepared for the second option, not a preferred option,” Trump said in response to a question that posed military force as the second way to deal with North Korea. “But if we take that option, it will be devastating for North Korea.”
“That is called the military option. If we have to take it, we will,” the president said.
“He’s active very badly,” Trump said of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. “He is saying things that should never, ever be said. And we’re replying to those things, but it is a reply. It is not an original statement, it is a reply.”
Trump noted that Kim and his dynastic predecessors have a long history of belligerent rhetoric and provocative actions.
“North Korea is a situation that should’ve been handled 25 years ago, 20 years ago, 15 years ago, 10 years ago and five years ago,” he said. For those without a political calendar handy, that timeline would include the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama administrations.
“It could’ve been handled much more easily, you’ve had various administrations, many administrations which left me a mess, but I’ll fix it,” Trump promised. “I’ll fix the mess. We’ll see what happens.”
He said that North Korea’s nuclear missile program threatens the entire world, and as such, “all nations must act now to ensure the regime’s complete denuclearization.”
“It is time for all responsible nations to join forces, to isolate the North Korean menace,” Trump declared, taking a moment to thank Chinese President Xi Jinping in particular for previously “unthinkable” economic sanctions against the Kim regime. He also thanked Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who was visiting the White House, for expelling the North Korean ambassador to Madrid.
Kyodo News notes that the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions against eight North Korean banks and 26 individuals accused of links to the North Korean nuclear missile program on Tuesday.
The individuals in question are North Korean nationals who represented their banks to countries such as China, Russia, Libya, and the United Arab Emirates. Kyodo News notes that if the U.S. Treasury continues on its declared course of blacklisting companies that provide North Korea with financing and trade opportunities, it will inevitably end up blocking some Chinese banks from doing business in the United States, which would sorely test Beijing’s commitment to the cause of isolating North Korea.