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President Donald Trump's "fire and fury" ultimatum was an off-the-cuff comment, The New York Times reported, citing people involved in North Korea policy discussions.
Some reports speculated that policy advisors had approved a more hawkish tone, after the president was seen glancing at a sheet of paper while making his statement Tuesday. The Times reported Wednesday that Trump was glancing at a fact sheet about the opioid crisis, which had been billed as the focus of the briefing.
Trump warned that North Korea's threats "will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." The remarks came hours after reports that Pyongyang had successfully created a miniaturized nuclear weapon designed to fit inside its missiles.
Trump has often used that phrase in private, White House advisors told the Times. Aides may be divided on North Korea policy, but the newspaper said Trump's language wasn't endorsed by either camp.
The president's words were also panned by Beijing, Pyongyang's biggest ally. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated that it wants to resolve "the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula through political means."
The office also urged all parties "to avoid any words or action that could intensify problems and escalate the situation; and to put more effort into pushing this issue back on the right track of dialogue and negotiation."
— CNBC's Eunice Yoon and Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.