AUBURN — Sen. Angus King of Maine said Wednesday he’s concerned that President Trump’s recent fiery rhetoric toward North Korea will not help ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and may put thousands of lives at risk.

“It’s a very dangerous situation,” King said during a news conference just hours after Trump shared on Twitter a video clip of himself warning North Korea that it would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it made more threats to the United States.

Trump also took to the social media platform to say, “My first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before.”

Followed by, “Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!”

King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, said he understands Trump’s frustration with the situation, which has come to a head during his administration. King said the problem of North Korea would be a very difficult one for any president to deal with.

But he urged Trump to avoid using Twitter as a means of diplomacy. King said thousands – if not millions – of people, including nearly 30,000 American troops stationed in South Korea, would be in harm’s way were war to break out between the U.S. and North Korea.

King believes the key to a peaceful solution rests in the hands of the Chinese government, North Korea’s closest ally and a key trading partner. He said Trump’s tweets toward China also are not helpful.

“You don’t do diplomacy by tweet,” King said, noting that messages shared can be easily misread or misinterpreted.

Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, D-1st District, also issued a statement on North Korea on Wednesday condemning Trump’s rhetoric and repeating King’s concerns that the president may be endangering the lives of Americans and their allies abroad.

“Diplomacy is the most effective option to address concerns over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program,” Pingree said. “President Trump must work with intelligence officials and experienced military officers to map out a viable strategy for containing North Korea’s nuclear arsenal instead of making extreme threats on television or Twitter, which make us all feel less safe.”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, issued a statement on North Korea but refrained from criticizing Trump.

“Given the credible and serious threat North Korea poses to our country, and in particular to U.S. forces and our allies in the region, I welcome the administration’s success in securing new economic sanctions against North Korea at the United Nations,” Collins said.

“The unanimous passage of these strict sanctions, the economic pressure they will exert on North Korea, and the fact that the Chinese government voted for the sanctions are significant developments that I hope will lead Kim Jong Un to curtail his extremely dangerous and destabilizing pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

King, who serves with Collins on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the current situation with North Korea was the most dangerous problem the U.S. has faced since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. King also serves on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee. He said the Cuban situation was resolved with diplomacy and ultimately a deal between the U.S., Cuba and the Soviet Union. Under its terms, the Soviet Union agreed to not place nuclear weapons in Cuba and the U.S. agreed to remove missiles from Turkey while promising not to invade Cuba. King said the North Korean regime exists in a constant state of “paranoia” and fear of a U.S. invasion.

“Feeding that paranoia strikes me as not a positive way to defuse a dangerous situation,” King said.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine, R-2nd District, said in a statement that the U.S. military stood ready to defend the nation and that American readiness – including its nuclear capabilities – have served as a strong deterrent. But said he was hopeful the U.S. would avoid an armed conflict.

“There remain opportunities to resolve this situation diplomatically, and I believe we should continue to pursue those options,” Poliquin said. “I’m hopeful diplomatic discussions can continue, but history demands we stand prepared.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

sthistle@pressherald.com

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