The Slatest

Trump Doesn’t Rule Out Potential Attack on North Korea: “We’ll See”

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart St. John’s Church on Sunday in Washington.

Chris Kleponis/Pool/Getty Images

President Donald Trump suggested all options are on the table in retaliation for North Korea’s nuclear test on Sunday. As he was leaving church services, a reporter asked Trump whether he would consider launching an attack on North Korea. “We’ll see,” Trump told the gathered reporters. The president spoke shortly after he was scheduled to meet with his national security team to discuss how the United States would respond to the nuclear test. Last month, Trump said that if the threats from North Korea continue, they will be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

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On Twitter, Trump previewed that his administration is also considering a new round of tough economic sanctions that could further isolate North Korea. Among other options, the United States is evaluating “stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea,” Trump wrote.

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The president issued the warning shortly after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin previewed that new economic sanctions were being worked on. “I am going to draft a sanctions package to send to the president for his strong consideration that anybody that wants to do trade or business with them would be prevented from doing trade or business with us,” Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday. “People need to cut off North Korea economically. This is unacceptable behavior.”

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Although Mnuchin refused to comment on whether the nuclear test puts the United States closer to a potential war with North Korea, he did say there’s plenty more that Washington can do to further isolate the already isolated nation. “Much more than we’ve done already,” he said.

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Although Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was calling his counterparts in Asia on Sunday following North Korea’s nuclear test, Trump had already made clear he was frustrated by both China and South Korea. “North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success,” he said. “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

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South Korea responded by saying that it was working with Russia and China to put forward “maximum sanctions and pressure” on North Korea. It also took the opportunity to remind Washington that military action was not an acceptable solution to the current standoff. “We have experienced an internecine war and can never tolerate another catastrophic war on this land,” President Moon Jae-in said in a statement. “We will not give up our goal of working together with allies to seek a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

China also criticized the nuclear test but has been expressing frustration in recent weeks that the West seems to be promoting the idea that it is up to Beijing to bring Pyongyang in line. “The United States has to play its own role and should not be blindly putting pressure on China to try and squeeze North Korea,” Ruan Zongze, a former Chinese diplomat, tells Reuters.

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