President Donald Trump threatened Thursday to send the military to close the US-Mexican border against an "onslaught" of migrants, stepping up his anti-immigrant rhetoric ahead of congressional elections.
"I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught - and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!"
Trump has made his call for a wall on the southern border a signature issue of his two-year presidency, but Thursday's tweet storm was especially fierce.
Trump suggested he was even prepared to put at risk the recently renegotiated North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, the United States and Canada, redubbed as USMCA.
"The assault on our country at our Southern Border, including the Criminal elements and DRUGS pouring in, is far more important to me, as President, than Trade or the USMCA," he said.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders meanwhile said that "we are passionate about solving the issue of illegal immigration," and that "our administration is doing a great job on the border."
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo embarked on a tour of the region that took him to Panama on Thursday with a visit to Mexico set for Friday.
The Mexican stop is important for future relations because it comes just ahead of the inauguration in December of President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico's foreign minister designate, downplayed Trump's comments as aimed at his domestic political base.
"The position of President Trump is the one he has always raised," Ebrard told local radio station Radio Centro.
"It was predictable and also the election process is very close, so he is making a political calculation," he added.