With Donald Trump threatening “fire and fury” and North Korea signaling pre-emptive strike on Guam, Twitter erupted in statements of fear, shock and ridicule over the rising tension, and prospect of war.
Mr Trump’s stern warning on Tuesday that "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States” because “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”, unleashed more than 200,000 tweets and kept the #NorthKorea hashtag as the top trend in Washington.
“They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before” Mr Trump repeated, a line that drew both shock and mockery online.
Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post tweeted a reminder that “the wonderful, thriving city of Seoul, capital of South Korea, is just 35 miles away from the border, within ‘fire and fury’ range”
Tim O’Brien of Bloomberg View, invoked imagery from Game of Thrones, showing the “fire and fury” on the small screen of Daenerys Targaryen and her dragon.
Keen observers noted an ironic resemblance between Mr Trump’s threat and North Korea’s own rhetoric. Noah Rothman of Commentary magazine tweeted:
‘No joke: I read Trump's statement on North Korea and thought it was a North Korean statement on Trump.
Others were more apocalyptic, warning that the world might end because of the U.S. President’s words and faulting those who voted for Mr Trump because of concern over Hillary Clinton’s email:
"Just wanted, before the frickin' world ends tomorrow, to thank the 62,979,636 of you who thought her emails were more important."
The Economist cover for this week, featuring the image of a nuclear mushroom cloud and the shape of Mr Trump and Kim Jong Un's heads on top, added an apocalyptic tone to the tweet storm:
The worrying turn of events unfolded after a new U.S. intelligence assessment on Tuesday revealed that North Korea is making missile-ready nuclear weapons.
The Washington Post was the first to report the intelligence assessment that “North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturised nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles”, hence crossing “a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power”.
CNN said “it is not believed that the capability has been tested” and “this is not a consensus view from the entire intelligence community, one US official said.”
The day started in Washington with Mr Trump bragging on Twitter about the new sanctions the UN Security council passed on North Korea:
"After many years of failure, countries are coming together to finally address the dangers posed by North Korea. We must be tough and decisive!"
However, the day is ended on a more escalatory note, with North Korea responding to the United States that “it is considering a plan to fire missiles at Guam.”
A spokesman for North Korea's military told the Korean Central News Agency “that it would carry out a pre-emptive operation if there were signs of U.S. provocation” according to Reuters.
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff General Joseph Dunford spoke few hours ago with his Russian counterpart General Valery Vasilyevich Gerasimov and discussed "issues of mutual concern.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Congress in June that war with North Korea would be "more serious in terms of human suffering than anything we've seen since 1953”.