U.S. President Donald Trump ramped up his war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after a week of tensions that has roiled global markets.
“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” Trump tweeted on Friday. Earlier, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said the U.S. president is “driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war.”
Trump is increasing pressure on North Korea and has vowed to unleash “fire and fury” on Kim’s regime as it threatens to fire missiles near the Pacific island of Guam, where the U.S. has a military base. The saber rattling has shaken global markets. Asian stocks fell the most in eight months today, the CBOE Volatility Index climbed to the highest level since Trump’s election victory and gold hit a two-month high.
The crisis has gripped much of the region. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said today his government would back the U.S. if North Korea attacked. Japan moved missile interceptors into position after the Guam threat, the Nikkei newspaper reported. China, North Korea’s only major ally, called on both countries to avoid the “old road” of escalating hostilities.
No Immediate Signs
Still, there are no immediate signs that the U.S. is planning an attack. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday that the U.S. is “gaining diplomatic results” and a conflict in Korea would be “catastrophic.” And while the U.S. has the military resources in the region to strike North Korea at short notice, it does not appear to be sending in more military hardware as might be expected if it were preparing for a conflict.
Also, while global stocks are down today, U.S. futures barely budged after Trump’s latest tweet.
“China hopes that related parties will speak and act with caution, doing more to alleviate the tense situation and enhance mutual trust,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement on Friday. “They shouldn’t take the old road of taking turns to show strength and continuously escalating.”
Some analysts nevertheless expect the tensions to escalate in the coming days as both North and South Korea celebrate the Aug. 15 anniversary of the end of Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula.
The U.S. and South Korea are due to start joint military exercises from Aug. 21, while Japanese and U.S. military personnel have begun drills on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido that run through Aug. 28.
This most recent crisis was sparked, in part, by the Aug. 5 unanimous vote in the United Nations Security Council to impose new sanctions on the Kim regime in response to its nuclear and missile tests.
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