WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump doubled down on his threat to rain "fire and fury" on North Korea, saying Thursday that "maybe it wasn't tough enough."
Trump used four versions of the word "tough" in describing his posture toward North Korea for its continued pursuit of a nuclear-armed intercontinental missile, while downplaying the potential for successful negotiations.
"Sure, we'll always consider negotiations. But they've been negotiating now for 25 years," he said, addressing reporters from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., with Vice President Mike Pence beside him.
Even as the president reiterated that a unanimous vote of the U.N. Security Council last week for additional sanctions was "a great job," he suggested they would not work to change Pyongyang's behavior.
"Probably, it will not be as effective as a lot of people think it can be," he said.
The president's bellicose language, in matching that of North Korean autocrat Kim Jong Un, has heightened tensions and fear among Americans and allies of a nuclear confrontation with a volatile adversary. Trump again contended that his predecessors were timid in the face of North Korea's nuclear program.
"It's about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries," Trump said.
He declined to rule out a first strike. "We don't talk about that. We never do," he said.
Asked to provide reassurance to Americans concerned by the heated words between the two countries, including North Korea's threats to the American territory of Guam, Trump pointed to the strength of the military while ramping up his threat to North Korea.
"The people of this country should be very comfortable," he said.
"And I will tell you this — if North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about" attacking the United States, its allies or "anybody that we love," Trump continued, "they should be very nervous. Because things will happen to them like they never thought possible, OK?"