WASHINGTON -- US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that North Korea's nuclear weapons could "very soon" threaten the American homeland but that his administration is working to stop that from happening.
In his first State of the Union address before Congress, Trump vowed not to repeat "the mistakes of past administrations" that led to the current nuclear standoff with the North.
"North Korea's reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland. We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening," the American president said, referring to his administration's push to increase economic and diplomatic sanctions on Pyongyang.
"Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation," Trump added. "I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this dangerous position."
President Donald Trump gestures as delivers his first State of the Union address in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol to a joint session of Congress Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan applaud. (AP)
The president highlighted human rights abuses by the Pyongyang regime, saying no country has oppressed its citizens "more totally or brutally" than the "cruel dictatorship" in North Korea.
"We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and our allies," he said.
Trump cited the case of Otto Warmbier, a US college student who died last year after being held in North Korea for more than a year. Warmbier's family members were present in the chamber.
"You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires us all," Trump said. "Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto's memory with American resolve."
The president also gave a nod to a North Korean defector named Ji Seong-ho.
Trump said Ji lost his limbs while trying to steal some coal to barter for food, only to be tortured later by North Korean authorities who wanted to know if he had met any Christians during a visit to China.
"Today he lives in Seoul, where he rescues other defectors, and broadcasts into North Korea what the regime fears the most -- the truth," the president said. "Today he has a new leg, but Seong-ho, I understand you still keep those crutches as a reminder of how far you have come. Your great sacrifice is an inspiration to us all." (Yonhap)