Donald Trump played golf at his vacation destination Wednesday – while his defense secretary told Kim Jong-Un he risked destroying his regime and his people if he continued his nuclear weapons threat.
The president was revealed to be on the course when his golfing companion, a New Jersey businessman, posted an Instagram picture saying their match had gone ‘down to the 18th hole’.
Trump – who had tweeted that his 17-day stay at Bedminster, New Jersey, was not a vacation – did not have his game officially disclosed by the White House.
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It is likely to fuel concerns over the response to the North Koreans’ increasingly aggressive posture which in the space of 24 hours saw Trump and his Secretary of State Tillerson apparently at odds, and his Pentagon chief James Mattis revealed to have been initially out of the loop.
The magnitude of the nuclear crisis was underlined as one White House aide, Sebastian Gorka, compared it to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Mattis weighed in with his own stern warning to North Korea on Wednesday afternoon – shortly before the Instagram image emerged – invoking the ‘end’ of its regime following President Trump’s own admonition that Pyongyang’s threats would bring ‘fire and fury.’
In his first comments since the crisis took a sharp escalation, Mattis, a former Marine general, said: ‘The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons,’ referring to North Korea.
He continued: ‘The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.’
Hours after President Trump brought up the readiness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Mattis did his own touting of the military might of the world’s reigning superpower – despite it being confirmed that the Pentagon boss had not been aware of the words used by the president the previous day.
His reference to precision was a reminder of the U.S. military’s ability unique ability to attempt to decapitate the regime with guided missile strikes aimed at individuals places where they gather should a military conflict ensue.
His own tough talk followed explosive comments by President Trump on Tuesday issued at his New Jersey golf course that North Korea would provoke ‘fire and fury’ if it continued with its threats.
‘President Trump was informed of the growing threat last December and on taking office his first orders to me emphasized the readiness of our ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces. While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth,’ Mattis said.
‘The DPRK regime’s actions will continue to be grossly over matched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.’
Trump himself fired another flare in Kim Jong-Un’s direction on Wednesday morning, saying in tweets the United States’ nuclear arsenal is ‘stronger and more powerful than ever before’ and he ‘hopefully’ won’t need to use it.
‘My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before,’ Trump said. ‘Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!’
Trump made the show of might on social media after his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, tried to dial down the conflict as he returned to Washington from Southeast Asia on a trip that included a pit stop in Guam.