US President Donald Trump has referred to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man” – and pictured himself taking out his former election rival Hillary Clinton with a golf ball.
Trump spoke on Saturday night with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, pledging joint “steps to strengthen deterrence and defence capabilities and to maximise economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea”, according to the White House.
Trump’s own account of the conversation, which kicked off an unbridled salvo of early morning tweets on Sunday, struck a less diplomatic tone.
“I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night. Asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!” the president wrote to his 38 million followers.
He then launched into half a dozen retweets of internet memes celebrating his Make America Great Again campaign theme – topping it off with a GIF montage of himself taking a swing at a golf ball and knocking out his erstwhile Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
On a much more serious note on Sunday, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said the UN Security Council has run out of options on containing North Korea’s nuclear programme and the US may have to turn to the Pentagon.
“We have pretty much exhausted all the things that we can do at the Security Council at this point,” Haley told CNN’s State of the Union.
Haley added she was perfectly happy to hand the matter to Defence Secretary James Mattis.
“We’re trying every other possibility that we have but there’s a whole lot of military options on the table,” she said.
US National Security Adviser HR McMaster said Kim is “going to have to give up his nuclear weapons because the president has said he’s not going to tolerate this regime threatening the United States and our citizens with a nuclear weapon”.
Kim has threatened Guam, a US territory in the Pacific, and has fired two missiles over Japan, a US ally in Asia, including one missile launched on Friday. North Korea also recently tested its most powerful nuclear bomb yet.
Trump has threatened to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea. Haley said that wasn’t an empty threat from the president but, when asked, she declined to describe the president’s intentions.
“If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed and we all know that and none of us want that,” Haley said.