Axel Schmidt | Reuters
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and U.S. President Donald Trump at the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017.
New Zealand’s premier admonished him for remarks “not helpful” in a “very tense” environment. Australia’s prime minister said “maximum economic pressure” was the only way to deal with North Korea. In Japan, where Nagasaki was marking the 72nd anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city, Mayor Tomihisa Taue said anxiety was spreading “that in the not too distant future these weapons could be used again.”
A day after President Trump vowed to respond to North Korea “with fire and fury” if Pyongyang continued to threaten the U.S militarily, many world leaders have yet to weigh in on Trump’s comments. However, those that have appear to view the president’s rhetoric as more likely to escalate the situation than to settle it.
“Everyone wants to avoid military confrontation, and the path ahead there is for North Korea to comply with UN sanctions and for international pressure to push them in that direction,” New Zealand’s leader Bill English told his country’s media Wednesday.
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In Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also expressed concern with Trump’s use of language. “A conflict would be shattering. It would have catastrophic consequences. We all understand that,” he said. “The global community, led by the (UN) security council, including China and Russia, are all united in seeking to bring the maximum economic pressure on North Korea to bring them to their senses without conflict.”
In Japan, Taue used a speech to commemorate those killed by the world’s first atomic bombing — 140,000 people died in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and 70,000 more in Nagasaki three days later — to urge world leaders to abandon nuclear weapons.
His comments appeared to be aimed just as much at Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un as at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government for what Taue said were empty promises about working to achieve a nuclear-free world.
“The nuclear threat will not end as long as nations continue to claim that nuclear weapons are essential for their national security,” he said.
Trump’s “fire and fury” comments came after a Washington Post story Monday, citing U.S. intelligence officials and a confidential Defense Intelligence Agency report, that said North Korea may have mastered a technological hurdle needed to strike the U.S. with a nuclear missile. That was swiftly followed early Wednesday by a statement from North Korea’s army that said it was studying a plan to strike the U.S. Pacific Island territory of Guam with medium- to long-range ballistic missiles.