President Bill Clinton's former defense secretary said Wednesday that President Trump should have stayed quiet, instead of responding to North Korean threats by saying the U.S. would bring "fire and fury" against the regime.

"That kind of language is not going to intimidate the North Koreans," former Defense Secretary William Cohen said on MSNBC.

"To me, it's always better, if you see an enemy that remains silent ... that's more frightening than someone who is beating his chest or engaging in schoolyard banter or locker room language," he said.

Cohen, who was also a former Republican congressman and senator from Maine, said silence would have had a more "powerful impact."

"I think silence would have been very good here, and let the diplomats like Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson, the others who are trying to bring about a peaceful solution to this, have the authority to do so," he said.

He said threatening North Korea wouldn't work because that country knows that "the United States is not going to launch a preemptive attack, putting at risk hundreds of thousands if not millions of South Koreans, Japanese and others."