President Donald Trump asserted on social media that the U.S. was prepared to take military action against North Korea if its leader Kim Jong Un did not cease issuing threats. The president's provocative statement arrived amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, with Americans increasingly worried about the prospect of nuclear war.
On Aug. 11, Trump took to Twitter to warn the Kim regime the U.S. was prepared for military engagement.
"Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely," the president tweeted. "Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!"
Following North Korea's advancements in developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could potentially strike the U.S. mainland, both Trump and the Kim regime have exchanged increasingly charged rhetoric.
On Aug. 8, Trump stated during a press conference that he would authorize unprecedented force against North Korea if it continued to escalate its hostility towards the U.S., CNBC reports.
"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States," Trump said during the press conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen... they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before."
On Aug. 10, the president doubled down on his rhetoric, telling reporters "If anything, maybe that statement wasn't tough enough."
The Kim regime responded to the president's comment by announcing a military plan to launch rockets towards Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean and a home to more than 160,000 American citizens. Trump stated "If [Kim] does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody's seen before, what will happen in North Korea."
On Aug. 11, Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated that the U.S. was prepared for military engagement but would seek all diplomatic solutions first.
"The tragedy of war is well enough known," Mattis said during an event in California, according to BBC. "It doesn't need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic."
The defense secretary added that efforts to deescalate tensions between the U.S. and North Korea "has diplomatic traction, it is gaining diplomatic results."
That same day, several officials disclosed that the U.S. and North Korea had been holding diplomatic talks through a New York-based communications backchannel that had been used during the Obama administration, The Associated Press reports.
"Contrary to the public vitriol of the moment, the North Koreans were willing to reopen the New York channel following the election of President Trump and his administration signaled an openness to engage and 'talks about talks,'" said executive director Keith Luse of the National Committee on North Korea.
"However, the massive trust deficit in Pyongyang and in Washington toward each other has impeded the confidence-building process necessary to have constructive dialogue," Luse added.
Trump's social media warnings to North Korea have reportedly ignited Americans' fears of nuclear war. The publishing optimization company SocialFlow found that there was a surge in social media shares and internet searches about the prospect of a world war and nuclear devastation.
"The public seems to be much more concerned that nuclear confrontation is a possibility," SocialFlow co-founder Frank Speiser told USA Today.