President Trump hinted on Tuesday that the United States may be forced to use military force against North Korea if Pyongyang doesn't temper their rhetoric, according to Yonhap.
Trump revived the threat of military action as negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled over how to match the North's denuclearization steps with U.S. concessions.
But the U.S. president also emphasized his close personal relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying he hopes Kim will abide by his commitment to dismantle his country's nuclear weapons program. -Yonhap
After Trump said Kim Jong Un "likes sending rockets up, doesn't he?" adding "That's why I call him Rocket Man," Trump told reporters at this week's NATO gathering:
"Now we have the most powerful military we've ever had and we're by far the most powerful country in the world," adding "And, hopefully, we don't have to use it, but if we do, we'll use it. If we have to, we'll do it."
In 2017, Trump threatened to "totally destroy" the communist regime, before he and Kim conducted several summits aimed at salvaging the increasingly contentious relationship between the two nations.
Earlier Tuesday, North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae-song urged the United States increase efforts to mend fences.
Since the collapse of Trump and Kim's second summit in Vietnam in February, the North has warned that it will seek a "new way" if the U.S. fails to come up with an acceptable proposal by the year-end.
"The DPRK has done its utmost with maximum perseverance not to backtrack from the important steps it has taken on its own initiative," Ri said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. He was apparently alluding to the North's suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests since 2017.
"What is left to be done now is the U.S. option and it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get," Ri continued, in an apparent warning that unless the U.S. comes up with a new offer this month, Pyongyang could restart its nuclear weapons and long-range missile tests. -Yonhap
North Korea has conducted a series of short-range ballistic missile tests since May - with some experts suggesting they are covertly advancing their weapons technology while simultaneously pressuring the Trump administration to grant sanctions relief and security guarantees in exchange for partial denuclearization.
The most recent test involved a super-large multiple rocket launcher.
"My relationship with Kim Jong-un is really good, but that doesn't mean he won't abide by the agreement we signed," said Trump. "You have to understand. You have to go and look at the first agreement that we signed. It said he will denuclearize. That's what it said. I hope he lives up to the agreement, but we're going to find out."