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Trump again tweets cryptic threats about North Korea

North Korean and South Korean soldiers stand face to face at the demilitarized zone dividing the countries. (Associated Press)
North Korean and South Korean soldiers stand face to face at the demilitarized zone dividing the countries. (Associated Press)

President Trump on Saturday sent new tweets hinting at military action against North Korea, keeping alive tensions with the isolated nation and distancing himself further from his top aides who favor diplomacy.

"Only one thing will work" in dealing with nuclear-armed North Korea, the president wrote -- without further clarification.

"Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid," he said. It was not clear what money he was talking about.

That approach, he wrote in a follow-up tweet, "hasn't worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!"

Later Saturday, in remarks to White House reporters as he left for a Republican fundraiser in North Carolina, Trump declined to clarify his mysterious comment earlier in the week, at a White House dinner with top military officials, that their gathering was "maybe the calm before the storm." That was widely interpreted as perhaps a reference to North Korea. Trump told reporters there was "nothing to clarify."

Saturday's tweets, posted soon after Trump had spent an afternoon at his Virginia golf club near Washington, made for a second consecutive weekend in which he has taken to Twitter with belligerent messages that contradict his top military and diplomatic advisors, who have advocated a more cautious approach.

Last weekend, Trump directed a message to his secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, saying that he was "wasting his time" by trying to talk to the government of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to find a peaceful solution to what has become something of a potential nuclear standoff.

The president's postings a week ago, just a day after Tillerson, in China, had said the United States had established direct contacts with North Korea to "probe" its willingness to negotiate, were widely seen as a humiliation of Tillerson, and not the first. Tillerson subsequently appeared before television cameras at the State Department to deny that he has threatened to resign.

The dispute between Trump and Tillerson over North Korea, among other issues, has severely strained relations within the Cabinet. 

In the remarks to reporters as he left for North Carolina, Trump said he and Tillerson have "a very good relationship." He acknowledged that they have some disagreements and that "sometimes I'd like him to be a little bit tougher."

The president also addressed the status of his chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, who has also been the subject of speculation that he is unhappy in his job. 

To the contrary, Trump said, Kelly "will be here, in my opinion, for the entire remaining seven years" -- a comment that also assumed Trump is reelected to a second term.

"John Kelly is one of the best people I've ever worked with," Trump said, adding, "He's doing an incredible job."

This post was updated to add Trump's comments to reporters on Saturday evening.

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