US has been conducting back-channel talks with North Korea for months 

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Despite the bombastic rhetoric exchanged between North Korean and American leaders this week, the Trump administration has been quietly engaged in back-channel diplomacy with North Korea for several months, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

The ongoing talks have included discussions about U.S.-North Korean relations and Americans imprisoned in North Korea, the source said.

The case of American student Otto Warmbier, who died following his release from North Korea, was included in those talks.

Despite White House condemnations after Warmbier’s death, those contacts have continued and include discussions about the remaining Americans held there, the source said.

According to the source, the talks are being held between Ambassador Joseph Yun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, and Pak Song Il, a senior North Korean diplomat at the country's U.N. mission, using what’s known as the “New York channel,” which has been an avenue of communication between the U.S. and North Korea throughout the years.

The talks ramped up after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, according to the source familiar with the negotiations, with the U.S. side aiming to secure the release of Warmbier and the other Americans held in North Korea.

A number of Trump administration officials, including the president himself, have publicly commented on the recent threats made by North Korea, including a proposed strike on the waters off Guam, a U.S. territory in the western Pacific.

Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have both used strong language pertaining to North Korea's threats. But Mattis said Thursday that the American effort was "diplomatically led."

"What I would say here ladies and gentleman, my portfolio, my mission, my responsibility is to have military options should they be needed," he said.

"However, right now Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson and [United Nations] Ambassador [Nikki] Haley, you can see the American effort is diplomatically led, it has diplomatic traction it is gaining diplomatic results, and I want to stay right here, right now. The tragedy of war is well known. It would be catastrophic."

Earlier this week, Trump said that North Korea would be met with "fire and fury" if it made further threats against the U.S., and then on Thursday, he suggested that those words may not have been "tough enough" after the threats from North Korea continued.

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Kenyatta declared winner of Kenyan presidential race

iStock/Thinkstock(NAIROBI, Kenya) -- After he was declared the winner of Kenya's presidential race, President Uhuru Kenyatta called for unity amid the disputed election and reports of protests and violence from the opposition.

"I reach out to you...We are all citizens of the same republic," he said in a speech after the announcement, according to the BBC.

Kenyatta, 55, won with 54.3 percent of the vote, while his rival Raila Odinga, 72, took in 44.7 percent, BBC reports.

While Odinga called on his supporters before the results to remain calm, he also said that "people want to see justice," the BBC reports. After the announcement, Odinga and his campaign rejected the results.

Protesters took to the streets in several areas in wake of the result, according to the BBC, with reports of gunshots and some people lighting fires in roads. Police responded by firing tear gas in some locations, the BBC reports.

In 2007, Odinga alleged electoral manipulation after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of Kenya's presidential election. The disputed election led to violent protests and targeted ethnic violence, killing about 1,100 people and displacing 600,000.

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How Guam and other areas are preparing amid escalating North Korea nuclear tensions

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As the war of words ratchets up between North Korea and Donald Trump, some cities and other areas within the zone of a possible strike are taking steps to prepare their residents.

While many pieces of the North Korean nuclear puzzle remain unknown, such as whether a rocket could survive reentry, as well as whether the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, will act, some localities are taking measured steps in that direction.

Officials in Hawaii and now Guam have released updated preparedness plans and warning sheets for how their citizens should react in case of a nuclear detonation or imminent missile threat.

The threat of possible missile attack, which North Korea has explicitly made against Guam, prompted the release of several fact sheets on a government website.

Hawaiian officials also updated their guidance in recent weeks.

But many other American cities appear to be taking a more limited approach, pointing residents towards existing plans to address a wide array of natural and man made disasters.

Top U.S. officials have also urged calm, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said Americans should "sleep well at night."

How Guam is preparing residents

The website for Guam's Homeland Security Office of Civil Defense has been updated recently with a number of fact sheets detailing the emergency alert system and giving tips on what to do before, during and after an imminent missile threat.

One of the fliers, "preparing for an imminent missile threat," instructs readers to listen for official information and emergency guidance, take cover, stay inside and not to look at the flash or fireball if caught outside in order to avoid being blinded.

The site also redirects visitors to websites run by the Centers for Disease Control and federal government sites dedicated to building emergency supply kits, tips for sheltering in place and preparing their pets for disasters.

On Wednesday, the offices of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense released a statement saying that their military partners "continue to monitor the recent events surrounding North Korea and their threatening actions."

The statement went on to say that Guam's homeland security adviser George Charfauros "has not received any statement that there is an imminent threat."

Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo told Reuters Wednesday after that threat was made that he thinks that North Korea is operating from "a position of fear."

"At this point, based on what facts are known, there is no need to have any concern regards heightening the threat level," Calvo said.

On Friday, Calvo held a briefing during which he said the preparedness releases were published for "eventualities," emphasizing that life should carry on as usual.

"It's a weekend. Go out and have fun," Calvo said.

Hawaii's updated guidance on what to do in event of detonation

Another American island -- Hawaii -- recently updated its guidance on what to do in case of a nuclear detonation, posted July 21 on Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. The substance of the revision was not immediately clear.

The revised plan details how a siren will sound or emergency alert systems will notify people of a nuclear detonation in addition to the observation of a "brilliant white light (flash)."

From there, people are directed to get inside, stay inside and stay informed via radio stations or small portable walkie-talkies.

The plan notes that there are no designated blast or fallout shelters in Hawaii.

"You may have only minutes to take protective action -- take immediate action without delay," the plan states.

The plan, which is on Hawaii State Department of Defense letterhead, is labeled as being revised on June 27. No motivation for the release or update was publicly disclosed on the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

ABC News reached out to the state's emergency management agency, but did not immediately get a response.

Ground-based interceptor system protects Alaska and continental U.S.

The ground-based interceptor system is in place to defend Alaska and the mainland United States against long-range missiles.

There are 32 ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and an additional four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The missiles have just over a 50-percent success rate in intercepting incoming long-range missiles in testing over the past decade.

"[The interceptor] would have a hard time protecting Hawaii, but it would protect Alaska and the mainland,” ABC News Aviation Consultant Steve Ganyard, a retired Marine Corps colonel, said.

One problem, however, is that it “could not handle a barrage of 10 incoming missiles. It could pick off a few, but we're not there yet. It’s too developmental a system,” he added.

The emergency management office for Anchorage did not immediately respond to an ABC news request for comment.

The Alaska division of homeland security and emergency management does not have a specified nuclear preparedness plan and Anchorage, Alaska, takes an “all-hazards” approach which has also been adopted in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles in California.

“During the 1980s the United States government transitioned from the old Civil Defense 'fallout shelter' model of the Cold War-era, to the FEMA 'All Hazards' approach used today,” said Andrew Preis, the Emergency Programs Manager for Anchorage. “What that means to us here in Anchorage is the same preparedness activities undertaken for a large magnitude earthquake would also apply to a nuclear threat as well.”

West Coast tells residents to heed general emergency plans

On the mainland, several population centers on the West Coast repurpose their emergency plans for other disasters, whether they be natural like earthquakes or tsunamis, or man-made like terrorism and a nuclear attack.

Washington state does not have a specified nuclear detonation plan, with much of the state's focus being paid to possible earthquakes or tsunamis given the fault lines there.

"A nuclear strike certainly presents unique challenges but the state has exercised for and prepared for a variety of disasters and many of our response capabilities would be useful following a nuclear event," said Karina Shagren, the spokesperson for the Washington Military Department.

Officials in both Los Angeles and San Francisco take an "all hazards" approach to emergency planning.

"The situation with North Korea has understandably caused concern about what might happen if a nuclear strike targeted and reached the Los Angeles area," said Kate Hutton, public information officer for the City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department. "We continue to closely monitor this situation as well as all threats and hazards we might face in Los Angeles."

Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco, like most major metropolitan areas in the United States, have alert systems that residents can sign up for on their phones or via email.

"It's a very alarming possibility and it's concerning should something of this nature happen," Kate Hutton, the spokesperson for the San Francisco department of emergency management, told ABC News.

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US airstrikes target al-Shabab fighters in Somalia

iStock/Thinkstock(MOGADISHU, Somalia) -- The U.S. military conducted offensive airstrikes in Somalia on Thursday against fighters with al-Shabab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda.

No details were provided by U.S. Africa Command as to the targets of the airstrikes, which were the fourth offensive airstrikes carried out in Somalia since President Trump authorized such actions in March. Previously, only self-defense airstrikes could be carried out in Somalia in support of American advisers and Somali troops.

"On August 10, the Department of Defense conducted two kinetic strikes against al-Shabab militants," said a statement from U.S. Africa Command. "The operation occurred near the Banadir region in southern Somalia." Banadir is the administrative region surrounding the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

"This strike was conducted within the parameters of the proposal approved by the president in March 2017, which allows the U.S. Department of Defense to conduct lethal action against al-Shabab within a geographically defined area of active hostilities in support of partner forces in Somalia," the statement said. "We will continue to assess the results of the operation and will provide additional information as appropriate."

The president gave the U.S. military authority to target al-Shabab in a designated area of Somalia south of Mogadishu with prior notification to the Somali government.

This authorization for offensive actions has been used sparingly. The first airstrike occurred in June, with two others following in July, including one on July 31 that killed Ali Jabal, a senior al-Shabab leader who was alleged to have planned terror attacks in Mogadishu.

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Trump says U.S. military solutions for North Korea are 'locked and loaded'

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- As tensions with North Korea escalate, President Trump said in a tweet that U.S. military solutions are "now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely."

The U.S. Pacific Command tweeted Thursday that U.S. bombers on Guam stand ready "if called upon to fulfill" U.S. Forces Korea's "FightTonight" mission if called upon.

"FightTonight" is the slogan U.S. Forces Korea use to reflect America's commitment to defending South Korea at a moment's notice from any North Korean aggression.

While on a working vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey, the president on Tuesday warned North Korean leader Kim Jung Un and his regime that if they continue to threaten the U.S., they will be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

On Thursday, Trump told reporters that perhaps that warning "wasn't tough enough."

North Korea has for a decade been testing ballistic missiles and working to develop its nuclear program with the goal of building a weapon capable of reaching the continental United States. The threat from the country intensified when North Korean leader Kim Jung Un’s regime for the first time launched a two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4.

According to an assessment released Tuesday, U.S. intelligence analysts said they believe they may have the technology to develop a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit onto a ballistic missile.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously voted last Saturday to implement new sanctions against North Korea, banning exports worth over $1 billion, in response to the country's most recent missile test on July 28.

North Korea slammed the sanctions as a "violent infringement of its sovereignty" and said it would take "thousands-fold" revenge against the U.S.

The following day, Trump ramped up the rhetoric: "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 said.

In response to Trump's comments, North Korea announced that it plans a missile strike on waters near the U.S. territory of Guam, which is home to several U.S. military bases.

Guam has a defense system -- the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD -- in place to shoot down an incoming ballistic missile.

The U.S. also has the option of conducting a pre-emptive strike targeting North Korean missiles and nuclear facilities, but that could trigger an attack by Kim Jong Un on South Korea that could lead to a devastating number of civilian causalities.

The U.S. has 28,500 troops permanently stationed in South Korea and 54,000 troops in Japan. The U.S. Navy has also stationed destroyers and cruisers in Japan that are capable of destroying missiles from North Korea shortly after they are launched.

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Diplomats react to Trump thanking Putin for expelling US embassy workers

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Current and former U.S. diplomats reacted to President Trump's comments thanking Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling U.S. embassy workers with dismay.

“As far as I'm concerned, I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people, because now we have a smaller payroll,” Trump said at a briefing at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Thursday.

"We'll save a lot of money," he added.

It's unclear if the U.S. would save any money because of the expulsion. Any diplomats removed from Russia would be sent to posts elsewhere around the world.

The Russian order to expel 755 U.S. diplomats last month came in response to new sanctions imposed by the U.S. A diplomatic row over Russian interference in the 2016 election began last year after President Obama ordered the seizure of two diplomatic facilities used by Russia in the U.S. and the expulsion of 35 diplomats and their families.

One of those compounds, in rural Maryland outside of Washington, was said to be used for espionage, according to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

A State Department official who is a foreign-service officer told ABC News the message from Trump thanking Putin is "really quite sad."

"I'm not even angry. It's just saddening," the official said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official cited what they said is the perception among State Department employees that Trump does not support the institution or its diplomats abroad and a sense that "he just doesn't get it."

A former U.S. ambassador also noted a pattern in the comments: "For reasons we do not yet know, the president cannot bring himself to criticize Putin."

The comments were swiftly condemned on a bipartisan basis as well -- by foreign policy voices across the political spectrum.

Harvard University professor Nicholas Burns, who was ambassador to NATO and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs under President George W. Bush, called Trump's comments disrespectful.

The longtime Middle East diplomat and negotiator Aaron David Miller tweeted about the president's comments.

And Stanford professor Michael McFaul, who served on President Obama's National Security Council and as his ambassador to Russia, tweeted a string of critiques.

But former U.S. ambassador to Poland and State Department sanctions czar Dan Fried tried to find a different take on Trump's comments.

"If in a generous mood, you could argue that POTUS is showing Putin that he isn't bothered by this," he told ABC News.

Tillerson has said the U.S. will decide how to respond to the expulsions by Sept. 1.

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How a North Korean attack could play out: analysts

PromesaArtStudio/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The continuing escalation of verbal threats by North Korea and harsh warnings from American officials has sparked questions about whether military conflict between the U.S. and Pyongyang is possible, and if so, what it could look like.

Two foreign policy experts stressed in interviews with ABC News both that because North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's main priority will always be to ensure continuation of his family’s regime he will likely hesitate to take any steps that could threaten their control.

“The whole goal is regime survival,” said ABC News aviation consultant Steve Ganyard, a retired Marine Corps colonel.

Scott Snyder, a senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News that Kim probably knows he can’t use nuclear weapons for offensive purposes if he wants to survive and “what we know of Kim Jong Un is that he wants to survive.”

Aside from Kim's interest in self-preservation, it remains unclear whether North Korea has all of the necessary technology to make an offensive strike possible.

Ganyard said North Korea would have to have four essentials in place before making nuclear strike: a nuclear weapon, missiles, technology that allows a missile to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere without igniting, and the capability to target missiles.

Kim "showed us that the rocket has the range” necessary to strike parts of the U.S. through recent missile tests, Ganyard said. And, a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report cited the broader U.S. intelligence community's analysis that North Korea has a miniaturized nuclear weapon that could fit on a rocket. Separately, Japan's defense ministry came to a similar conclusion.

But it remains unknown if the North Koreans have the re-entry or target technology necessary for such an attack.

“At this stage, even with the [Defense Intelligence Agency] report out there, I would still say that they have an unproven capability to deliver because there has not been a judgment yet about their ability to master re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere, so that applies for now to the continental United States,” Snyder said.

“But that may not apply in months,” he added.

Despite the reasons why North Korea may be unlikely to mount a nuclear strike, the country's threatening rhetoric has not died down.

Several U.S. cities or territories are within a range which experts believe North Korea's missiles could potentially reach.

What happens if Guam is attacked?

Pyongyang's latest statement, read on state-run television Thursday, said North Korea is "seriously examining the plan for an enveloping strike at Guam through simultaneous fire of four ... ballistic rockets" in the water about 18 to 24 miles off the coast of the U.S. territory.

Ganyard said that any such action would be viewed as an “act of war, even if [Kim] doesn’t hit it ... even if he shoots at it.”

“Shooting at Guam is no different than shooting at New York City,” he said.

Guam is home to several bases for U.S. armed forces, including the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Guam already has a defense system in place, -- the U.S. Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD -- which shoots down ballistic missiles. For this reason, Ganyard said, an attack on Guam “sort of doesn’t make sense.”

Snyder said North Korea’s current, announced threats and its earlier suggestions of possibly targeting Guam is unusual and a departure from the nation's penchant for secrecy.

“It’s odd given that they have threatened nuclear strike on the U.S. mainland before. Why are they ratcheting it down?” Snyder said.

What happens if Anchorage, Alaska, is attacked?

Ganyard said that if Anchorage or any part of the mainland United States were attacked, the response would be swift and destructive.

The U.S. response would involve intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear weapons "raining down on targets that have been predetermined since 1957.”

“U.S. policy since Eisenhower has been, ‘You come across the [demilitarized zone], or you attack the United States and you will immediately be obliterated by thermonuclear weapons,’” Ganyard said.

Another deterrent to an attack on Alaska is that it is protected by a ground-based interceptor system, which has just over a 50 percent success rate in intercepting incoming long-range missiles. There are 32 ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and an additional four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

“[The interceptor] would have a hard time protecting Hawaii, but it would protect Alaska and the mainland,” Ganyard said. One problem, however, is that it “could not handle a barrage of 10 incoming missiles. It could pick off a few but we're not there yet. It’s too developmental a system,” he said.

What happens if Seattle, Washington, is attacked?

“If you’re looking for the shortest and closest place in the mainland to hit [with an intercontinental ballistic missile], it would be Seattle,” Snyder said.

Besides its geographic proximity to North Korea, there is a military reason why Seattle could an attractive target.

Snyder said any troops from U.S. Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state would be directed through Seattle if they “have a North Korea mission in mind.” So, a strike that cut off that route could make such American troop deployments difficult.

But, Snyder noted that the latest understanding of North Korean military capability is that the country may lack the re-entry technology necessary for an effective attack targeting specific parts of the U.S. mainland.

What if South Korea or Japan are attacked?

Both South Korea and Japan have been within range of North Korea's weapons for some time, so the threat to those countries is not new.

“They already have lived with the threats, whereas Americans are not living with the threats currently but may face it imminently,” Snyder said.

If South Korea were attacked, Ganyard said that “because [President Donald Trump is] bound by a treaty, we will defend them the same way we would defend the United States.”

How all of this could be avoided

The biggest inhibitor to any attack right now is that the North Korean military may still lack certain technological capabilities, which experts believe would, for the time being, keep the country from following through on some of its more specific and extreme threats.

“At present, still I’m not sure the capability is there,” Snyder said.

Rather than merely counting on a delay in Pyongnang's developing the needed technology, diplomatic routes are still available, Ganyard said.

He said it would be possible for the U.S. and other nations to “crack down on the sanctions on the illicit part of the economy,” of North Korea, which he said includes drug smuggling, money laundering, and components of their nuclear weapons program, all of which help fund the North Korean government. That strategy could exert enough economic pressure for Kim Jong Un's regime to reach a "certain pain point” that prompts him to make changes.

“He's learned the lesson of Saddam [Hussein] and Muammar [Gaddafi]," Ganyard said. "He's never going to give up his nukes, so I think at some point we go back to Cold War-style deterrence and containment the way we did with the Soviet Union successfully.”

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At least five migrants dead in second 'deliberate drowning' near Yemen

PeterHermesFurian/iStock/Thinkstock(ADEN, Yemen) -- More than 100 migrants were forced from a boat off the coast of Yemen on Thursday, leaving at least five dead, the United Nations migration agency said.

In a press release, the International Organization for Migration said that five bodies had been recovered and approximately 50 more migrants were missing. The incident follows a similar incident in which 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants were forced into the Arabian Sea. That incident resulted in the drowning of 50 people.

The IOM also says that the shallow graves of 29 migrants were uncovered on a beach in Shabwa. Those who drowned in the Wednesday incident are believed to have been buried there by those that survived.

Medical staff from the migration agency tended to 27 surviving migrants, while approximately 42 had already left the beach. Twenty-two remain unaccounted for.

"The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them to the sea, when he saw some 'authority types' near the coast," said Laurent de Boeck, the IOM's Yemen Chief of Mission. "They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route."

"This is shocking and inhumane" de Boeck added. "The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future."

The approximate average age of the passengers on the boat in the Wednesday incident was 16 years old, the IOM says.

More than 50,000 migrants are believed to have left the Horn of Africa since January to come to Yemen, the U.N. agency notes.

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Canadian pastor released from prison in North Korea

Tuangtong/iStock/Thinkstock(OTTAWA, Ontario) -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement on Thursday announcing the release of a Canadian pastor from North Korea.

Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim had been serving a life sentence in North Korea since 2015 for anti-state activities. Trudeau said Thursday that the Government of Canada had been "actively engaged on Mr. Lim's case at all levels." He also thanked Sweden, Canada's protecting power in North Korea, for assistance in the case.

"This week, a Canadian government delegation led by Daniel Jean, my Special Envoy, traveled to Pyongyang, North Korea, to discuss Pastor Lim's case," Trudeau said. The Prime Minister added that Lim's "health and well-being remain of utmost importance to the Government of Canada, and we are working to ensure that he receives any required medical attention."

Lim is expected to return to Canada, though Trudeau's statement did not lay out a timeline for his return.

Lim's family, in a statement to CTV News, said that "there is a long way to go in terms of Reverend Lim's healing, therefore, in the meantime we ask the media for privacy as he reconnects with his loved ones and receives medical attention."

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North Korea details its missile threat to Guam, says 'only absolute force can work' on Trump

donfiore/iStock/Thinkstock(PYONGYANG) -- North Korea's military will devise a plan by mid-August to fire four intermediate-range missiles at the U.S. territory of Guam, according to North Korean state media.

A report on Thursday by the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency said the plan is "to interdict the enemy forces on major military bases on Guam and to signal a crucial warning to the United States."

The North Korean military will present the plan to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who will then decide whether to proceed, the news agency reported.

"The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the [Korean People's Army] will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi Prefectures of Japan," the report said, citing North Korean Gen. Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the military's Strategic Rocket Forces. "They will fly 3,356.7 kilometers (2,085.8 miles) for 1,065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40 kilometers away from Guam."

In a statement released Wednesday through the news agency, Gyom said U.S. President Donald Trump's warning of "fire and fury" is a "load of nonsense." Gyom also said Trump's comments fail to grasp the ongoing situation, calling the American leader a "guy bereft of reason" and saying he is "extremely getting on the nerves" of the country's army.

Only "absolute force can work on him," Gyom said in statement, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The North Korean general added that the country is still examining a possible strike on waters near Guam "to signal a crucial warning to the U.S."

North Korea previously said Tuesday in response to Trump's remarks that it was considering a strike on the U.S. territory in the western Pacific that would create "an enveloping fire."

Guam is home to some 163,000 people and a key U.S. Air Force base.

Gyom's statement concluded by saying that the country will be "closely watching the speech and behavior of the U.S."

Speaking from Bedminster, New Jersey, on Tuesday, Trump used strong language to caution North Korea against making any further threats against the United States.

"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 statement -- and as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power the likes of which the world has never seen before," Trump said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis added to the increasingly heated rhetoric, urging North Korea's leader to "take heed" of the United Nations Security Council's "unified voice," referring to recent sanctions issued against the nation. Mattis also called for the country to "cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."

Members of the U.S. intelligence community believe that North Korea's nuclear capabilities may be more advanced than initially thought and the country might have developed the technology to miniaturize a nuclear warhead so it can be placed inside an intercontinental ballistic missile, a U.S. official told ABC News on Tuesday. The Washington Post first reported the news, citing a July 28 report by the Defense Intelligence Agency about North Korea's capabilities.

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