WASHINGTON — Trump administration officials have delivered mixed messages of alarm and reassurance as tensions have escalated over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, leaving doubt about the direction of U.S. policy.

A selection of recent comments, from the president on down, on North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un:

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

“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 has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” (Aug. 8)

DEFENSE SECRETARY JIM MATTIS

“The DPRK (North Korea) must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.” (Aug. 9)

SECRETARY OF STATE REX TILLERSON

“I think the President just wanted to be clear to the North Korean regime on the U.S.’s unquestionable ability to defend itself … and its allies, and I think it was important that he deliver that message to avoid any miscalculation on their part. … I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.” (Aug. 9)

TILLERSON

“We do not seek the collapse of the regime. … We’re trying to convey to the North Koreans we are not your enemy, we are not your threat, but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us, and we have to respond. And we hope that at some point, they will begin to understand that and that we would like to sit and have a dialogue with them about the future that will give them the security they seek.” (Aug. 1)

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER H.R. MCMASTER

“The president’s been very clear about it. He said he’s not gonna tolerate North Korea being able to threaten the United States. If they have nuclear weapons that can threaten the United States, it’s intolerable from the president’s perspective. So of course, we have to provide all options to do that. And that includes a military option.” (MSNBC interview aired Aug. 5)

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE

Trump’s position is that “leveraging our allies in the region and China to economically and diplomatically isolate North Korea will ultimately be more productive.” However, “all options are on the table.” (Interview with The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 2)

CIA DIRECTOR MIKE POMPEO

On Kim Jong Un: “The North Korea people — I’m sure are lovely people — and would love to see him go as well. You know they don’t live a very good life there.” (July 21)

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.