September 24. 2017 9:46PM

Treasury secretary defends Trump's North Korea rhetoric

Tribune Washington Bureau

An anti-U.S. rally at Kim Il Sung Square is seen in this Saturday photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on Sunday. Placards read (L-R) "A global military power", "Be through with the U.S.", "The U.S. is evil's headquarters", "Old foe the U.S." (KCNA/via REUTERS)

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin defended President Donald Trump’s way of dealing with North Korea, insisting Sunday that heated rhetorical exchanges with reclusive despot Kim Jong-un were not making a volatile situation more dangerous.

“This is not about personalities; this is not personal,” Mnuchin said on ABC.

For the past week, Trump has used various forums, including a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, to belittle Kim as “Rocket Man.”

The North Koreans have responded with a volley of insults, including calling Trump a “dotard,” meaning a mentally feeble old person, and new threats to attack the United States.

Mnuchin parried questions about Saturday’s flight by U.S. B-1B bombers and F-15C fighter jets over waters north of the Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean peninsula. The Pentagon described the warplanes’ deployment as being in response to “reckless behavior” by Kim’s government.

Mnuchin, echoing language frequently used by White House aides as North Korea tensions have escalated, said Trump had a wide variety of options for dealing with Kim and his nuclear ambitions and ballistics program.

“The President has said everything’s on the table,” he said.

Late Saturday, Trump, in a Twitter post, referred a speech earlier in the day by North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho.

“Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N.,” Trump said. “If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”