Trump’s threat to North Korea contrasts with calm reassurances of other administration officials

President Trump’s bellicose threat to North Korea that its nuclear provocations would be met with “fire and fury” was spontaneous, neither scripted nor formally vetted by his top advisers, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.

But as Pyongyang intensified its confrontation with Washington in recent days, Trump discussed with Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and other advisers a strategy to escalate his rhetoric and deliver a more aggressive and overt challenge to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, said two senior White House officials. The message Trump delivered Tuesday afternoon “was unexpected, but it wasn’t surprising,” one of the officials said.

As lawmakers and experts reacted with alarm and exasperation to a presidential statement they viewed as dangerously inflammatory because it painted a picture of possible nuclear strikes, senior administration officials Wednesday followed Trump’s message with contradictory statements of their own.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke with calming sobriety, seeking to maintain pressure on North Korea but reassure Americans and U.S. allies that the nations were not on the brink of nuclear conflict.

Tillerson, during a refueling stop in Guam as he returned from an extended trip to East Asia, said that “the American people should sleep well at night.” He defended Trump’s forceful warning to North Korea

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