Tension between the United States and North Korea remained high Sunday as Pyongyang released propaganda videos showing U.S. planes and an aircraft carrier under attack.
The violent videos came after President Trump derided North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, by calling him "Little Rocket Man" and vowing at the United Nations to "totally destroy" North Korea if it threatens the United States or its allies.
U.S. officials were more restrained in their words Sunday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin repeated the insistence that all options, including military force, remain on the table. But he lingered more on discussing how he has greater authority to punish countries, companies and individuals who trade with North Korea under an executive order signed by Trump last week. And he downplayed the likelihood of nuclear war.
"The president doesn't want to be in a nuclear war," he said on ABC's "This Week." "And we will do everything we can to make sure that doesn't occur."
And Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who has pushed stronger sanctions against North Korea and those who trade with it, said there is still room for diplomacy and tougher sanctions that aim to bring North Korea to the negotiating table.
"We have a long ways to go to continue to ratchet up the economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea and the enablers of North Korea," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
"Our No. 1 goal with North Korea as it relates to North Korea must and always will be peaceful denuclearization of the North Korean regime," he said. "But we have a lot of work to do on the diplomatic and economic side before we think of any other option."
In Pyongyang, however, the rhetoric and the images evoked the possibility of war on the horizon.
Photoshopped pictures from a state-owned propaganda website, DPRK Today, purported to show a North Korean missile making a direct hit on B-1B Lancer bombers and an F-35 fighter jet. In the doctored shots, the planes were engulfed in flames.
Another falsified video on the website showed a missile launched from a North Korean submarine striking the USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered supercarrier. Like the planes, the ship explodes in a firestorm.
The fake news targets were apparently chosen because B-1B bombers escorted by Air Force fighter jets flew in international airspace off the coast of North Korea on Saturday in a clear demonstration of force. And the Carl Vinson led one of two carrier strike groups that conducted joint exercises with South Korea and Japan earlier this year.
As the war of words escalates, North Koreans are being bombarded with militaristic and tit-for-tat messages. Kim himself went on TV to declare that Trump is "mentally deranged" and a "dotard" and vowed to make him "pay dearly" for his insults. Kim said he was considering ordering the "highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history." On Saturday, the North's foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, said Trump's remarks made it an inevitability that his country's rockets would hit the U.S. mainland.
And in a government-orchestrated display of North Korean anger, what appeared to be tens of thousands of people attended a huge rally Saturday in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square, a large public plaza named after Kim's grandfather and founder of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Demonstrators chanted "total destruction," and "decisive revenge," according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency, which pegged the crowd size at 100,000. It said some people carried signs with the slogan "Death to the American Imperialists."
"We are waiting for the right time to have a final battle with the U.S., the evil empire, and to remove the U.S. from the world," said Ri Il Bae, a commanding officer of the Red Guards, KCNA reported. "Once respected Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un gives an order, we will annihilate the group of aggressors."
Other countries have watched with alarm as tensions have escalated.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a televised interview Sunday that he doubts the United States will militarily strike North Korea because of its nuclear weapons.
"The Americans won't strike because they know for sure — rather than suspect — that it has atomic bombs," Lavrov told Russia's NTV television. "I'm not defending North Korea right now, I'm just saying that almost everyone agrees with this analysis."
Early this month, North Korea conducted an underground test on what it said was a hydrogen bomb much larger than the one that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.
Asked how the confrontation could be defused, Lavrov replied, "Only with caresses, suggestion and persuasion."
Lavrov warned that without a diplomatic approach, "we could drop into a very unpredictable nosedive, and tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent citizens of South Korea but also North Korea, of course, and Japan will suffer — and Russia and China are nearby."