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Key quotes from Trump's war of words with North Korea

© AFP/File | US President Donald Trump threatens North Korea with "fire and fury" in an escalating war of words over its nuclear and missile programs

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

Not long ago, US President Donald Trump said he would be "honored" to meet with Kim Jong-Un -- the North Korean leader the US president also has variously dubbed "a madman" and "a smart cookie."

Now Trump has warned Pyongyang it faces "fire and fury like the world has never seen" if it continues to threaten the United States with nuclear weapons.

Here are some key quotes from the mercurial Trump's escalating war of words with North Korea.

- 'It won't happen!' -

Just before assuming office, Trump on January 2 dismissed a North Korean statement declaring it was close to developing a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the US, vowing "it won't happen!"

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- 'Big, big problem' -

"Obviously, North Korea is a big, big problem," Trump said on February 13, after a fresh ballistic missile test from Pyongyang. "And we will deal with that very strongly."

- 'A madman with nuclear weapons' -

"We can't let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that," Trump told Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during an April 29 phone call. "We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20 -- but we don't want to use it."

But in an interview that aired April 30 he called Kim "a pretty smart cookie" -- expressing admiration that the North Korean strongman "was able to assume power" at a young age.

- 'Honored' to meet Kim -

"If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it," Trump said of Kim on May 1. He also made similar statements on the campaign trail, but it's an idea he hasn't repeated in recent months.

- Hot and cold on China -

China, Pyongyang's sole major ally, would "properly deal with North Korea," Trump said on April 13, after accusing Beijing for months of failing to put pressure on the North.

"China is trying hard!" the US president emphasized in a May 29 tweet.

But he has recently changed his tune: "I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk," Trump tweeted on July 29.

"We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!"

- 'Patience is over' -

In the meantime, Trump's general attitude towards North Korea has grown increasingly severe: "The era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed, many years it has failed. Frankly, that patience is over," Trump said after holding talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-In at the White House on June 30.

On July 6 in Warsaw, he called "all nations to confront this global threat and publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences for their very, very bad behavior."

"I have pretty severe things that we're thinking about," Trump said, but added: "That doesn't mean that we'll do them."

- The 'fire' and the 'fury' -

"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States," Trump said Tuesday, days after the UN Security Council unanimously passed ramped-up sanctions over Pyongyang's weapons program.

His warning included an apocalyptic threat: "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

North Korea raised the stakes just hours later, saying it was considering missile strikes near US strategic military installations on the Pacific US territory of Guam.

On Wednesday the US president responded by boasting of America's nuclear arsenal, saying it was "far stronger and more powerful than ever before."

© 2017 AFP