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President Trump doubled down on his threats against North Korea on Thursday, and disparaged a quarter century of U.S. policy for the country. Meanwhile, North Korea announced its plans to launch four intermediate-range missiles at the U.S. territory of Guam and state TV declared the U.S. president reckless. Special correspondent Nick Schifrin reports.
President Trump continued the war of words between North Korea and the U.S. today, as Guam, the small U.S. territory island in the Pacific, became the center of global attention.
Special correspondent Nick Schifrin begins our coverage.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:
Things will happen to them like they never thought possible.
Today, President Trump doubled down on his threats against North Korea.
North Korea better get their act together, or they're going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world.
He met with his national security team in New Jersey and disparaged a quarter-century of what he called failed North Korea negotiations.
Look at Clinton. He folded on the negotiations. He was weak and ineffective. You look what happened with Bush, you look what happened with Obama. Obama, he didn't even want to talk about it.
Meanwhile, on the streets of Pyongyang, this is the season of steadfast support. Tens of thousands of North Koreans, scripted and staged, pledge allegiance to leader Kim Jong-un as he faces off against what they call imperialist America.
And the regime's mouthpiece, state TV, declared the president of the United States reckless.
MAN (through interpreter):
Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy, bereft of reason, who is going senile.
The TV announcer said Kim was considering an unusually specific plan, to launch four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles over three districts of Japan, flying for 17 minutes and exactly 2,086 miles, landing 19 to 25 miles off the coast of U.S. territory Guam.
Guam is about the size of Chicago, and, today, the 160,000 residents wavered between fear and faith.
It's actually been scary since yesterday.
With the military presence here, I am pretty sure we are safe.
The U.S. military has been here for 120 years and takes up a third of the island; 7,000 U.S. service members are stationed on an Air Force base with the U.S.' most modern bombers, and a Naval base that's home to fast-attack nuclear submarines.
The island is protected by a high-altitude missile defense system, and it has been threatened by North Korea many times before.
DAVID COHEN, Former Deputy Director, Central Intelligence Agency:
It is destabilizing, it is threatening, but it is not anything new.
David Cohen was the deputy director of the CIA until last year. He says President Trump's rhetoric:
They will be met with fire and fury.
… is music to Kim Jong-un's ears.
The more that the president of the United States engages directly in a war of words with Kim Jong-un, and with the North Korean regime, the more that they are able to use that to solidify and to justify their totalitarian regime.
U.S. officials defend their strategy, saying Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is committed to diplomacy, allowing the president to be more aggressive as an attempt to finally convince North Korea, as well as China, to change policy.
But that only works if everyone is on the same page.
The difficulty in not having coherent strategy is that the object of that strategy, whether it's North Korea or China, for that matter, doesn't really understand what it is you're trying to accomplish.
And that means the rhetorical and the real tension continue to rise.
For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Nick Schifrin.
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Nick Schifrin is the foreign affairs and defense correspondent for PBS NewsHour, based in Washington, D.C. He leads NewsHour's foreign reporting and has created week-long, in-depth series for NewsHour from China, Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, and the Baltics. The PBS NewsHour series "Inside Putin's Russia" won a 2018 Peabody Award and the National Press Club's Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence. In November 2020, Schifrin received the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Arthur Ross Media Award for Distinguished Reporting and Analysis of Foreign Affairs.
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