US President Donald Trump (Photo by AFP)
A senior aide to South Korea’s president says US President Donald Trump’s “unusual” belligerent rhetoric against the North has caused concerns and “confusion” in his country, calling for “restraint” in the face of the tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
In an interview with ABC news, Chung-in Moon, ambassador at large for international security affairs at the South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, criticized the Trump administration for a lack of clarity in the North Korea policy and said the White House is sending mixed signals over the issue.
He said Trump’s threat last week to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea came just 24 hours after his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, had asked him to tone down his rhetoric in a phone conversation.
This has left Moon’s administration “somewhat concerned,” his aide added.
Trump did not stop there and renewed the threat in a tweet days later. He said “military solutions” were “locked and loaded” for use against Pyongyang, promoting the North to threaten a missile strike against the US Pacific territory of Guam.
“This is very unusual. We do not expect that the president of the United States would make that kind of statement,” the South Korean diplomat said. “It is very worrisome for the president of the United States to fill [fuel] the crisis.”
A file photo of South Korean presidential adviser and ambassador-at-large Moon Chung-in
The new South Korean president was elected in May on a pledge to support dialog with the northern neighbor.
Trump’s bellicose language comes while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has suggested direct talks with Pyongyang if it halts its ballistic missile tests.
Earlier this month, Tillerson told North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, “We are not your enemy.”
One week later, however, Vice President Mike Pence told The Wall Street Journal that the right strategy against Pyongyang does not involve “engaging North Korea directly.”
Trump had also said in May that he would be willing to meet with North Korean leader “under the right circumstances” to defuse the tensions.
The South Korean official further said, “We are very much confused. We think the American government has moved from ‘strategic patience’ of the [ex-President Barack] Obama administration into strategic confusion.”
“I really don’t see a unified message. There is confusion,” the South Korean top official said. “We hope that President Trump will come up with the diplomatic skill to deal with the current crisis.”
Moon urges calm
In another development on Monday, the South Korean head of state called for a peaceful solution to the North Korea issue, and said “we cannot have a war on the Korean peninsula again.”
“I am confident that the US will respond to the current situation in a calm and responsible manner in line with our policy direction,” Moon said. 
He also urged the North to “stop all provocations and hostile rhetoric immediately, instead of worsening the situation any further.”
US top brass in South Korea
The developments come as US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford is in South Korea to discuss joint efforts against North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford (L) talks with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo during their meeting at the Defense Ministry in Seoul on August 14, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Dunford, who arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a two-day trip, met with Defense Minister Song Young-moo and is scheduled to meet the South Korean president.
The separate meetings will be followed by a news conference before the US official leaves for China.

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