Sunday July 5th, 2020 10:45PM

The Latest: Seoul: Response will be strong if N. Korea acts

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and North Korea (all times EDT):

10 p.m.

South Korea's military says North Korea will face a "stern and strong" response from Washington and Seoul if it acts on threats to fire missiles near Guam.

Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said Thursday that the U.S. and South Korean militaries are prepared to "immediately and sternly punish" any kind of provocation by North Korea, but didn't elaborate on how the allies are preparing.

South Korea's presidential office says top national security adviser Chung Eui-yong will chair a national security council meeting in the afternoon to discuss the North Korean threats.

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6:10 p.m.

North Korea's military says President Donald Trump's warning of "fire and fury" if it threatens the U.S. is a "load of nonsense."

The North is responding to Trump's threat in a statement from its military carried by state-run news agency KCNA. The statement says that "only absolute force" can work on someone as "bereft of reason" as Trump.

The North Korean statement also says the military action its army "is about to take" will be effective for restraining America's "frantic moves" in and near the southern part of the Korean Peninsula.

It says North Korea will complete a plan by mid-August for the "historic enveloping fire at Guam," convey it to the commander in chief of its nuclear force and then "wait for his order." North Korea says it will "keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the U.S."

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2:50 p.m.

The State Department says President Donald Trump is "on the same page" with the rest of U.S. government with his fiery threat to North Korea.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says the White House, State Department and Pentagon are all in agreement. She says the world, too, is speaking with once voice.

Nauert says the pressure by the U.S. and others on Pyongyang "is working."

Nauert says Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke to Trump for about an hour after Trump warned Tuesday of "fire and fury" if North Korea escalated its threats.

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2:11 p.m.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N.'s Conference on Disarmament says he urged North Korea to "end its threatening behavior," drawing a retort from an envoy from the reclusive Asian country.

Ambassador Robert Wood tweeted Wednesday that North Korean "provocations came up at CD informal session" and that he urged Pyongyang to comply with U.N. Security Council demands.

The 65-member conference is currently holding working-group meetings behind closed doors, with no press allowed. Diplomats said statements about North Korea made up a small portion of the meeting devoted to broader disarmament issues.

South Korea's delegation declined to provide its statement to The Associated Press, saying the meeting was not public. North Korea didn't immediately respond to an e-mail seeking its right-of-reply statement by its representative, Yong Chol Ju.

—Jamey Keaten in Geneva.

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1:58 p.m.

Russia's U.N. ambassador says President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should "start a dialogue."

Vassily Nebenzia said Russia noted Trump's vow to respond to North Korean threats with "fire and fury." He told reporters "our strong wish is that the United States keeps calm and refrains from any moves that would provoke another party to actions that might be dangerous."

He said Russia is "ready to do whatever we can to promote dialogue, and through our embassy we are in contact with North Korean authorities."

But Nebenzia said at U.N. headquarters in New York that "tensions are too high at the moment" and "we should give it a few days to calm down hopefully."

Nebenzia said Russia backs China's proposed suspension-for-suspension, which would see North Korea halt nuclear and ballistic missile activities and the U.S. and South Korean halt military exercises. He says this offers "a way out" of the current situation.

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12:50 p.m.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is issuing his own sharp threat to North Korea, saying the regime should cease any consideration of actions that would "lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."

Mattis says any action by North Korea would be grossly overmatched by the U.S., and that Pyongyang would lose any arms race or conflict it started. He says that while the U.S. is pursuing diplomatic solutions, the combined military power of America and its allies is the most robust on Earth.

Mattis issued a statement as he traveled to the West Coast. His comments punctuate President Donald Trump's warning that North Korea will be met with "fire and fury" if it threatens the U.S.

A new report says Pyongyang's nuclear program is progressing.

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12:15 p.m.

France is urging all sides "to act responsibly and to de-escalate" tensions over North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

French government spokesman Christophe Castaner says Paris is "watching what's going on with concern" and "is ready to put all its means at disposal so we can find a peaceful solution."

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11:55 a.m.

Bolivia is currently a U.N. Security Council member, and its ambassador says the escalating rhetoric between the United State and North Korea is "really detrimental" to the world body's goal of maintaining global peace and security.

Ambassador Sacha Llorentty Soliz "firmly" believes there's no military solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.

The Bolivian envoy tells reporters the rhetoric "goes against the spirit" of the latest U.N. sanctions resolution. In addition to imposing new economic penalties, that resolution calls for the quick resumption of international talks on the North's nuclear program.

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11:18 a.m.

Britain's U.N. ambassador says the United Kingdom "stands shoulder to shoulder with the United States" in tackling the nuclear threat from North Korea and making sure it can't pursue its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Matthew Rycroft told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York on Wednesday that the U.S. and U.K. have been very clear in demanding a halt to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. He said Kim Jong Un's regime should listen to and "act on that clarity."

Rycroft stressed that North Korea "holds the key to sanctions being removed."

Asked whether President Donald Trump's escalating rhetoric was hurting prospects for reviving negotiations, Rycroft said "what's hurting the six-party talks is the inability so far of the North Korean regime to do what it has to do which is to halt its nuclear program and to halt its intercontinental ballistic missile program."

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8:45 a.m.

North Korean authorities have organized a giant rally Wednesday as a show of support for their rejection of the latest round of U.N. sanctions.

Tens of thousands of people packed Kim Il Sung Square in downtown Pyongyang for the event, which followed a familiar format of speeches from a balcony, with the crowd listening below, standing in organized rows interspersed with placards and slogans.

Kim Ki Nam, member of the Political Bureau and vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, told the crowd that "the U.S. and its allies have fabricated a sanctions resolution again, taking over the United Nations while picking on our ICBM test launch."

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8:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump is stressing the United States' nuclear capabilities, saying "there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!" But he added: "Hopefully we will never have to use this power."

On Twitter Wednesday, Trump said he had pushed to "renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal." He then added: "Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!"

The comments come as Trump and North Korea traded escalating threats. Trump's heated rhetoric comes as his secretary of state seeks to downplay the words.

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8:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump says the United States' nuclear arsenal is "far stronger and more powerful than ever before."

Trump tweeted Wednesday: "My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before...."

The tweet came as Trump traded escalating threats with North Korea. Trump on Tuesday threatened "fire and fury" if North Korea made more threats to the U.S. And North Korea's military said it was examining plans for attacking Guam.

Trump retweeted news coverage about his heated rhetoric Wednesday.

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7:55 a.m.

A Republican who's a leading voice on defense issues says President Donald Trump has "basically drawn a red line" with his strong warning on North Korea.

The North is threatening the United States with the prospect of a nuclear-armed long-range missile, and Sen. Lindsey Graham says Trump isn't going to just "contain the threat. He's going to stop the threat."

The South Carolina lawmaker — a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee — tells CBS' "This Morning" that war would be "horrific" and he believes "we're headed that way unless the world can stop North Korea."

In Graham's opinion, "the time for talking is running out."

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7:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump is retweeting news coverage about his heated rhetoric against North Korea, even as his secretary of state is downplaying Trump's words.

On Wednesday morning, Trump retweeted "Fox & Friends" tweets about Trump's fiery rhetoric. One said "Trump vows U.S. 'power' will meet North Korean threat." Another included a video clip of Trump vowing to respond to North Korean threats with "fire and fury."

The president's retweets about his rhetoric Tuesday come as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was urging calm. Tillerson said Wednesday as he returned from an Asia trip he doesn't believe there is "any imminent threat."

Trump and North Korea have been exchanging escalating threats, with the North saying it was examining plans for attacking Guam. But Tillerson told reporters that nothing he's seen or knows of in the last day dramatically changed the situation.

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7:16 a.m.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he doesn't believe there is "any imminent threat" from North Korea, including to the U.S. territory of Guam.

Tillerson says that "Americans should sleep well at night." He says that they should "have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days."

Tillerson spoke to reporters Wednesday after President Donald Trump and North Korea traded escalating threats of "fire," with the North saying it was examining plans for attacking Guam.

He downplayed speculation that the threats move the U.S. closer to a military option. Tillerson says nothing he's seen or knows of in the last day dramatically changed the situation.

Tillerson spoke to reporters as he flew from Malaysia to Washington, stopping in Guam to refuel.

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