BEDMINSTER, New Jersey — President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that the U.S. military is "locked and loaded" if North Korea acts "unwisely," escalating an exchange of threats between the nuclear-armed nations.
American and South Korean officials said they would move forward with large-scale military exercises later this month that North Korea claims are a rehearsal for war. Pyongyang has laid out plans to strike near the U.S. territory of Guam.
Trump tweeted Friday: "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!" His tweet caps off a week of war rhetoric that has alarmed international leaders.
"I don't see a military solution and I don't think it's called for," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel declined to say whether Germany would stand with the U.S. in case of a military conflict with North Korea. She called on the U.N. Security Council to continue to address the issue.
"I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer," she added.
Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, estimated the risk of a military conflict between the U.S. and North Korea as "very high," and said Moscow was deeply concerned.
"When you get close to the point of a fight, the one who is stronger and wiser should be the first to step back from the brink," Lavrov said Friday.
Despite tensions and talk of war, life on the streets of the North Korean capital remains calm. There are no air raid drills or cars in camouflage netting as was the case during previous crises. At a park in central Pyongyang on Friday evening, young people practiced volleyball and grandparents and parents watched children on climbing frames and swings.
North Koreans have lived for decades with the state media message that war is imminent, the U.S. is to blame and their country is ready to defend itself. State-run media ensure that the population gets the North Korean side of the story, but don't convey any sense of international concern about the situation.
One 81-year-old resident, Ri Chong Song, says he's still going dancing in the park, a common pastime for the elderly, because he's confident that his country will survive.
Young graduate Choe Kyong Song says North Koreans don't want war, but then went on to repeat the kind of bold rhetoric that authorities favor — the idea that any conflict with the U.S. would result in North Korean victory and the reunification of Korea.
Two days after North Korea laid out its plans to strike near Guam with unsettling specificity, there was no observable march toward combat. U.S. officials said there was no major movement of U.S. military assets to the region, nor were there signs Pyongyang was actively preparing for war.
As it is, the U.S. has a robust military presence in the region, including six B-1 bombers in Guam and Air Force fighter jet units in South Korea, plus other assets across the Pacific Ocean and in the skies above. U.S. military options range from nothing to a full-on conventional assault by air, sea and ground forces. Any order by the president could be executed quickly.
The U.S.-South Korea exercises are an annual event, but they come as Pyongyang says it is readying a plan to fire off four Hwasong-12 missiles toward the tiny island, which is U.S. territory and a major military hub. The plan would be sent to Kim for approval just before or as the U.S.-South Korea drills begin.