North Korea on Tuesday denounced the “foolish” deployment of the US Navy along the Korean peninsula, and warned that the regime is prepared to respond with “the powerful force of arms” if necessary.
The sending of an aircraft carrier and its escort to the area by Washington “comes to prove that the foolish movements of the United States to invade the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have reached a serious phase,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesman The official KCNA agency, in Pionyang’s first comment since the US maneuver on Sunday.
The US naval group, which includes the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, two guided missile destroyers, and a guided missile cruise, canceled a planned stopover in Australia and set sail for the western Pacific Ocean from Singapore in a show of strength in the face of growing threats of the North Korean regime.
Trump has already threatened to take unilateral action against Pyongyang if Beijing fails to stop its neighbor’s nuclear program. On Tuesday, he confirmed that position: “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!”, wrote the president on his personal Twitter account.
Ready to Respond
“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is prepared to react to any form of war desired by the United States,” said the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman according to KCNA. “We will take the most severe measures against the provocateurs to defend ourselves with the powerful force of arms.”
Speculation about an impending nuclear test is expected to grow, as the next day, the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s founding leader, Kim Il-sung, is occasionally celebrated with a military demonstration.
The prime minister and interim president warned on Tuesday about the risk of a “serious provocation” of the North, which could also happen on April 25, the anniversary of the creation of his army.
“There is a possibility that the North may incur more serious provocations, such as a new nuclear test, to celebrate different anniversaries,” Hwang Kyo-ahn said during a government meeting.
Tensions coincided Tuesday with a session of the North Korean legislature, which meets twice a year to vote on the state budget and ratify the decisions taken by the North Korean party.
Pionyang is seeking to develop a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States with a nuclear warhead and has so far carried out five nuclear tests, two of them last year.
Analysis of satellite imagery suggests that it could be preparing a sixth, while US intelligence warns that the regime could be less than two years away from getting the ability to attack the North American continent.
At the same time, Seoul and Washington are conducting joint military training, an annual exercise that is seen by the North as a preparation for war.
South Korea’s top nuclear official said on Monday after interviewing his Chinese counterpart that the two countries had agreed to “tighten” measures to punish Pionyang if it carried out another trial.
The conversation came shortly after Trump welcomed Chinese leader Xi Jinping for a summit, in which he pressured Beijing to halt the North’s nuclear ambitions.
“We are prepared to go our own way if China is not able to coordinate with us,” warned US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after the summit.
The national security adviser, – H.R. McMaster, warned on Sunday that the denuclearization of Pionyang “has to occur.” Otherwise, “the president has asked them to be prepared to give him a whole range of options to eliminate the North Korean nuclear threat,” he told Fox News, referring to the president’s advisers.
Although a short-range US attack on North Korea could be effective, it would also endanger the lives of many civilians in South Korea, and could trigger a major military conflict, experts say.