WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. intelligence official said on Sunday he would not be surprised if North Korea tested another missile, given that it had two tests in July, amid rising tensions between the two nations.
U.S. President Donald Trump has offered fiery warnings for North Korea, saying that the U.S. military was “locked and loaded.” North Korean officials in turn have accused the U.S. leader of driving the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war.
“I am quite confident that (North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) will continue to try to develop his missile program, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there was another missile test,” U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday.”
North Korea said on Thursday that plans would be completed by mid-August to fire four intermediate-range missiles to land near the U.S. Pacific island of Guam, 3,500 km (2,175 miles) away.
Guam, some 7,000 km from the U.S. mainland, is a target because it is home to U.S. Naval and Air Force bases, from which two B-1B supersonic bombers were deployed close to the Korean peninsula on Tuesday.
Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday that U.S. “military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.”
Referring to Kim, Trump added: “If he utters one threat ... or if he does anything with respect to Guam or any place else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast.”
Trump has urged China to apply more pressure on North Korea.
He is expected on Monday to launch a trade investigation into China.
White House officials have insisted the investigation was not designed to apply additional pressure on China as it relates to North Korea despite the president’s previous remarks that he would be more amenable on trade if China stopped Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
Trump has also insisted that “nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, frequently a critic of the president, said he supported his approach to North Korea so far.
“I don’t think military action is imminent, but we’re on a collision course with North Korea,” Graham said on ”Fox News Sunday.“ “I think it’s absolutely the right rhetoric. I have President Trump’s back on this.”
The world has continued to watch the manoeuvring closely.
This weekend, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel urged the United States and South Korea to make their planned joint military exercise “as unprovocative as possible.”
In an interview with German newspaper group RND, Gabriel said the manoeuvres “could lead to North Korea using the opportunity for renewed provocation, for example, by firing an intermediate-range missile at Guam.”
A “spiral of violence” could quickly follow, he said.
Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir. Additional reporting by Paul Carrel in Berlin; Writing by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Alison Williams and Lisa Von Ahn