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Trump says military is ‘locked and loaded’ and North Korea will ‘regret’ threats

Updated: 
August 12, 2017 - 12:05am

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump continued to beat war drums on Friday against North Korea and, unexpectedly, said he would consider a military option to deal with an unrelated crisis in Venezuela. But though he declared that the armed forces were “locked and loaded,” there were no indications of imminent action in either part of the world.

For all the bellicose language emerging from the president’s golf club in Bedminster, the U.S. military was taking no visible steps to prepare for a strike against North Korea or Venezuela. The Pentagon reported no new ships being sent toward the Korean Peninsula or forces being mobilized, nor were there moves to begin evacuating any of the tens of thousands of Americans living in South Korea.

The juxtaposition between the heated words and the lack of apparent preparations suggested that Trump may still be counting on a resolution to the standoff with North Korea as it works to develop a nuclear arsenal capable of reaching the United States. After escalating his rhetoric against North Korea twice on Friday, Trump emerged from a late-afternoon meeting with his national security team offering a somewhat more restrained message, vowing to give diplomacy a chance.

“Hopefully it’ll all work out,” Trump told reporters, noting that he would call President Xi Jinping of China on Friday evening to coordinate strategy. “Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump, that I can tell you. Hopefully it’ll all work out, but this has been going on for many years.”

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, who traveled to New Jersey on Friday to brief Trump after returning from Asia, said the president’s tough language was part of an overall strategy intended to bring North Korea to the negotiating table.

“It takes a combined message there if we’re going to get effective movement out of the regime in North Korea. I think the president’s made it clear he prefers a diplomatic solution,” Tillerson said, standing next to Trump. “What the president’s doing is trying to support our efforts by ensuring North Korea understands what the stakes are.”

Still, even as Trump seemed to be slightly lowering the temperature with North Korea, he opened a new front by volunteering that he was contemplating the use of force in Venezuela. The government of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela has moved to shut down the opposition-controlled parliament after a fraud-plagued referendum amid a spiraling economic crisis.

“Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and they’re dying,” Trump said. “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.”

Just a day earlier, Maduro told delegates in Caracas he wanted to meet with Trump, possibly at the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York next month.

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