Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that “Americans should sleep well at night,” free from worry that North Korea’s ever-progressing nuclear program presents an “imminent threat” to the United States.
En route to Guam, the U.S. territory in the Pacific that North Korea has threatened to destroy with an “enveloping fire,” Tillerson defended President Donald Trump’s warning that Pyongyang “best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
“I think Americans should sleep well at night. I have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days. I think the president again, as commander-in-chief, I think he felt it necessary to issue a very strong statement directly to north Korea,” Tillerson said in remarks to reporters aboard his plane. “But I think what the president was just reaffirming is, the United States has the capability to fully defend itself from any attack and defend our allies, and we will do so. And to the American people should sleep well tonight.”
The secretary of state said he did not reconsider rerouting his current Pacific trip away from a planned stop in Guam. He told reporters that “I do not believe that there is any imminent threat in my own view.”
Despite the recent uptick in bellicose rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea, Tillerson was optimistic that recent diplomatic efforts have made headway on putting real pressure on North Korea. He said support from China and Russia, North Korea’s top two trade partners, on a package of sanctions passed unanimously last weekend by the United Nations Security Council.
The new sanctions imposed by the UN mark the latest response to North Korea’s nuclear program, which in recent weeks has included tests of ballistic missiles that could have the potential to reach the continental U.S. North Korea’s nuclear technology, too, has advanced, according to the Washington Post, which reported Tuesday that the Pentagon has concluded that the repressive state has successfully miniaturized a warhead small enough to fit on a missile.
“I think, in fact, the pressure is starting to show. I think that’s why the rhetoric coming out of Pyongyang is beginning to become louder and more threatening,” Tillerson said. “Whether we’ve got them backed into a corner or not is difficult to say. But diplomatically, you never like to have someone in a corner without a way for them to get out.”