President Donald Trump, who has been accused of escalating tensions with Kim Jong un’s North Korean regime with his aggressive rhetoric in recent weeks, eased back on his threats of annihilation on Tuesday, after North Korean diplomats accused him of declaring war over social media.

The President explained that, while the United States possesses the ability to counter the North Korean threat with direct military action that would be “devastating” for Pyongyang, he still doesn’t consider it to be the “first option.”

We are totally prepared for the second option, not a preferred option,” the president said in a press briefing at the White House. “But if we take that option, it will be devastating, I can tell you that, devastating for North Korea. That’s called the military option. If we have to take it, we will.”

The President refrained from referring to the North Korean Supreme Leader as “Rocket Man” throughout the briefing, as he has repeatedly on social media and in public statements.

“He’s acting very badly,” Trump said of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong un. “He’s saying things that should never ever be said,” adding, “I’ll fix the mess, we’ll see what happens.”

Both nations have seen shifts in their show of force strategies in recent days, as U.S. B-1B Lancer bombers out of Guam were joined by Air Force F-15C Eagle fighters out of Okinawa in a flight that took them further North around the Korean peninsula than U.S. aircraft have traveled in years, passing the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea while remaining in international waters to the East of the reclusive state.  North Korea responded by relocating aircraft to their eastern shores, according to South Korean intelligence, coupled with threats that North Korea may begin targeting U.S. aircraft after reading Trump’s recent social media posts as a “declaration of war.”

Trump sends bombers over the Korean peninsula, meets with defense officials to discuss military options

Read Next: Trump sends bombers over the Korean peninsula, meets with defense officials to discuss military options

The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” North Korea’s Foreign Minister, Ri Yong Ho, said. “Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, testified before lawmakers in the Senate Armed Services Committee this week that “North Korea certainly poses the greatest threat today,” though he countered South Korean statements about a shift in the nation’s military stance.

“While the political space is clearly very charged right now, we haven’t seen a change in the posture of North Korean forces, and we watch that very closely,” he said.  Another U.S. official indicated that satellite imagery indeed seemed to reflect a “small number” of military aircraft being diverted to North Korea’s east coast, but went on to say that such a change doesn’t necessarily constitute a change in the nation’s overall military posture.

Some outlets have reported that North Korea has moved air-to-air missiles and external fuel tanks to the eastern border of the nation to support the increased fighter presence, adding however that no jets currently appear to have been armed with both tanks and missiles.  SOFREP has not been able to independently corroborate those reports.  Without the additional fuel tanks, North Korea’s workhorse Mig-29s possess only a 900 mile maximum range.

 

Image courtesy of the U.S. State Department