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Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has dismissed President Donald Trump's pledge to respond to North Korea with "fire and fury" if it threatens to attack the U.S., warning that any resulting conflict would cause "catastrophic consequences" for the world.
Turnbull argued on Wednesday that "maximum economic pressure" against Pyongyang would be the only way to deal with the regime. He added the "new and harsh" sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council on Pyongyang would be critical in getting North Korea to come to its senses.
On Tuesday, Trump said North Korea "will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen" if it threatens the United States. In response, North Korea said it would be prepared to launch preemptive military strikes against the U.S, including the possibility of a targeted missile strike on the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.
A statement released by state-run KCNA news agency on Wednesday said Pyongyang would "turn the U.S. mainland in to the theater of nuclear war" if it were to uncover plans of an impending attack from Washington.
The dramatic escalation in geopolitical tensions has rattled financial markets and prompted analysts and international officials to warn Trump against further aggressive rhetoric with Pyongyang.
New Zealand's Prime Minister, Bill English, said Trump's comments on Tuesday were "not helpful" amid a tense global environment.
Turnbull has endured a fraught relationship with Trump since the former New York businessman was inaugurated in January. On Friday, the Australian premier described his relationship with Trump as "warm" despite transcripts of a heated telephone conversation at the start of the year.
The January phone call between Trump and Turnbull was widely reported at the time, but transcripts published by the Washington Post on Friday appeared to show the two leaders sparring over a refugee deal.
Trump described the Obama-era refugee deal with Australia as "stupid", "disgusting", and "horrible". The agreement would see the U.S. vet and potentially take up to 1,250 refugees from detention camps on the Pacific island countries of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
According to the transcript, the exchange between Turnbull and Trump ended shortly after the latter said, "That is enough, Malcolm, I have had it … I have been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call all day. (Russian President Vladimir) Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous."