NEW HAVEN, CT — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Wednesday said President Donald Trump should spend his time “enlisting our allies to help impose strict sanctions” against North Korea, instead of waging an escalating war of words.
Blumenthal, who was the subject of scathing criticism from Trump earlier this week, said the president took the wrong approach with his statement that North Korea would “face fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it continued to threaten the United States.
“Those words mean nothing to the North Koreans unless [they are] backed by actions,” Blumenthal said.
The senator made those comments Wednesday at the end of an unrelated press conference in New Haven.
“What the president and his advisers ought to focus on is strenuous enforcement of sanctions, and enlist China and Russia to be part of those negotiations,” Blumenthal said. “Tough talks are no substitute for economic sanctions.”
Following Trump’s “fire and fury” comment, North Korea’s state-run news agency KCNA said Wednesday it was “examining the operational plan” to strike areas around the United States territory of Guam with medium- to long-range strategic ballistic missiles.
Specifically, the statement mentioned a potential strike on Andersen Air Force Base, designed “to send a serious warning signal to the U.S.”
The base is one of two on the Pacific island, which is home to the closest bases on U.S. soil to North Korea, and represent the westernmost tip of the country’s military might.
Guam Governor Eddie Baza Calvo released a video address Wednesday reassuring island residents that there was no change in the threat level resulting from North Korea’s announcement.
“I want to reassure the people of Guam that currently there is no threat to our island or the Marianas,” he said. “I also want to remind national media that Guam is American soil and we have 200,000 Americans in Guam and the Marianas. We are not just a military installation.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson downplayed the threat from North Korea and said Americans “should sleep well at night.”
Tillerson said Trump’s tough talk was an attempt to get through to North Korea’s leadership.
“I have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days,” Tillerson said. “I think the president again, as commander-in-chief, I think he felt it necessary to issue a very, strong statement directly to North Korea.”
On Monday, Blumenthal felt the wrath of Trump via Twitter after the senator made an appearance on CNN’s “New Day” and stated that when Congress reconvenes in September it should approve legislation that prevents a “constitutional crisis” if Trump tries to fire the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Following Blumenthal’s appearance, Trump tweeted: “Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!”
Blumenthal served in the United States Marine Corps Reserves during the Vietnam War 40 years ago. He was stationed here in the U.S.
However, during the 2010 campaign against Linda McMahon the New York Times ran an exposé charging that Blumenthal had, in some public speeches, falsely claimed to have served in the military “in Vietnam,” rather than at home in the marine reserves during the Vietnam era.
Following Trump’s tweets, Blumenthal called them “slurs” and said he didn’t understand why the president seemed to have such an obsession with him.
Asked Wednesday whether he had anything else to add to the ongoing back-and-forth between him and Trump, Blumenthal asked: “Why, did he tweet anything new today?”
Told that Trump hadn’t, Blumenthal said, “Then no, I have nothing to add.”