President Donald Trump doubled down Thursday on his "fire and fury" threats against North Korea while offering the possibility of negotiations to defuse the crisis.
The president also seemingly dared North Korea's Kim Jong-un to follow through on his threat to launch a salvo of missiles in the direction of the U.S. territory of Guam.
"Let's see what Kim does with Guam," Trump said. "He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before -- what will happen in North Korea."
He added, "It's not a dare. It's a statement. It has nothing to do with dare. That's a statement. He's not going to go around threatening Guam and he's not going to threaten the United States and he's not going to threaten Japan and he's not going to threaten South Korea. That's not a dare, as you say. That is a statement of fact."
In remarks at his Bedminster, N.J., golf course and estate, Trump dismissed criticism that his recent remarks risked all-out war on the peninsula, saying, "Maybe it wasn't tough enough."
- Mattis to Kim Jong-un: US Would 'End' North Korean Regime
- Trump: North Korea Faces 'Fire and Fury' if Threats Continue
- North Korea Vows to 'Make US Pay a Thousand-Fold' for UN Sanctions
North Korea's nuclear and missile programs have put the U.S. and its allies on edge "for a long time, for many years, and it's about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries," he said.
"Somebody has to do it," Trump said. North Korea's Kim Jong-un has "been pushing the world around for a long time," and the U.S. is now resolved to rein in his nuclear state ambitions.
"So if anything, maybe that statement wasn't tough enough," he said. "And we're backed 100 percent by our military, we're backed by everybody and we're backed by many other leaders."
In off-the-cuff remarks Tuesday, Trump appeared to suggest the possibility of nuclear war.
"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen," he said.
North Korea's Kim "has been very threatening beyond a normal state," Trump said. "They will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before."
The immediate concern is the Marianas island of Guam and its 160,000 residents, all U.S. citizens. Guam is also home to a U.S. naval base and Andersen Air Force Base, from which B-1B Lancer bombers have gone on flights over the Korean peninsula in a show of force.
On Wednesday, North Korea threatened to launch a salvo of four Hwasong-12 missiles, which would fly a 2,100-mile route over Japan and splash down about 25 miles off Guam.
When asked Thursday if Guam residents should be fearful, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said only "No," adding that North Korea "would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates."
On his plane to Seattle, where he was to meet with high-tech representatives on Defense Department cyber programs, Mattis said, "It is North Korea's choice" on how the crisis is defused.
The SecDef said the Trump administration remains focused on a diplomatic solution, but "Do I have military options? Of course I do. That's my responsibility -- to have those."
"We want to use diplomacy. That's where we are right now, and that's where we hope to remain," Mattis said, but "of course there's a military solution."
Both Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford have warned of the "horrific" casualties in any conflict with North Korea, particularly from the thousands of rocket and artillery positions North Korea has along the DMZ that are trained on the 25 million people in the greater Seoul area.
At the National Press Club last month, Dunford warned that the U.S. and South Korea would not be able to suppress the artillery fire for at least 72 hours.
In a brief question-and-answer session with reporters in New Jersey, Trump said he is open to dialogue with the North on resolving the crisis, but remained skeptical.
"Negotiations? Sure, we'll always consider negotiations. But they've been negotiating now for 25 years," he said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.