Don’t expect “fire and fury” rhetoric from President Trump during his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
The president will use a more measured tone when discussing the North Korea nuclear weapons threat in his address, according to a senior administration official who provided a preview to the press.
Trump's comments will resemble a speech he gave in South Korea in November that focused on unity against the North’s “cruel regime” more than the threats and personal barbs he has traded with regime leader Kim Jong Un in the past.
“The president gave a speech in … the national assembly in the Republic of Korea. I think you would look at whatever he says in the State of the Union through that lens,” the official said.
Trump last summer warned that North Korea would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” as nuclear tensions escalated amid missile tests last summer. He called Kim “little rocket man” during a speech to the United Nations in September.
But the president shifted his tone during the appearance before the South Korean assembly on Nov. 7 by avoiding such rhetoric.
The speech highlighted North Korea’s human rights abuses and appealed to other nations on the need to block the North’s nuclear activities.
Trump also delivered a stern warning.
“Today, I hope I not only speak for our country but for all civilized nations when I say to the North, ‘Do not underestimate us and do not try us,'” he said. “We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity, and our sacred liberty.”
The line drew applause from the South Korean lawmakers.
The State of the Union address on Tuesday will touch on North Korea but focus on national security more broadly, the senior administration official said. It will be a top theme along with immigration, infrastructure improvements, and trade.
“The president is going to talk about rebuilding our military, returning to a policy of peace through strength, returning to clarity about our friends and our adversaries, and his efforts to defeating terrorists around the world,” the official said.
Trump is set to request a $716 billion defense budget for 2019, which could help foot the bill for a military buildup, and that could dovetail into his upcoming message of strength.
The president promised a historic buildup during an address to Congress a year ago.
The administration has also virtually defeated the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but is facing growing terrorism threats in Africa and a continuing fight in Afghanistan.