In a show of force last week, Washington rerouted the Carl Vinson nuclear strike group into Korean waters, after having cancelled its planned trip to Australia. The repositioning of US forces in the region coincided with President Donald Trump’s talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Wary of Washington’s firm commitment to undermine its nuclear and ballistic programs, Pyongyang issued a stern warning, saying, “This goes to prove that the US reckless moves for invading the DPRK have reached a serious phase.”
“If the US dares opt for a military action, crying out for ‘preemptive attack’ and ‘removal of the headquarters’ the DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US,” a spokesman for the North’s foreign ministry said according to state news agency KCNA.
Calling Trump’s moves to bolster regional military presence “foolish” and “outrageous” the spokesman noted that American provocation could force North Korea to respond with nuclear force.
“The prevailing grave situation proves once again that the DPRK was entirely just when it increased in every way its military capabilities for self-defence and preemptive attack with a nuclear force as a pivot,” the statement noted, adding that US will be held “wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences.”
While the deployment of the US strike group to North Korean shores has raised fears of possible regime change motives, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson dismissed such a scenario over the weekend. Emphasizing that Trump’s administration only wants a denuclearized Korean peninsula, Tillerson told the “This Week” program the US has “no objective to change the regime in North Korea.”
he North “has made significant advancements in delivery systems, and that is what concerns us the most,” Tillerson noted, adding, “If you become a threat to others, at some point a response is likely to be undertaken.”
The North has carried out five nuclear tests – two of them last year. Pyongyang also appears on course to produce ballistic missiles capable to deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.
Commenting on the Xi-Trump meeting, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, told “Fox News Sunday” that both leaders agreed on the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” McMaster also noted that Trump asked his military advisers to “be prepared to give him a full range of options to remove that threat.”
As Washington mulls its options to tackle the nuclear threat, the Chinese military has reportedly deployed some additional 150,000 troops to the North Korean border, Chosun.com reported. Beijing is allegedly preparing for possible pre-emptive attacks on its neighbour similar to the one exhibited on Friday by the US when it rained Tomahawk missiles on Syria unannounced.
While China’s foreign Ministry denied the report, it did urge caution from both Washington and Pyongyang.
“China has been closely following the developments of the situation on the Korean Peninsula. We believe that, given the current situation, all relevant parties should exercise restraint and avoid activities that may escalate the tension,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said Monday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the report of possible military action had caused concern in Moscow.
“One wonders how this corresponds to the collective effort to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, which is enshrined in UN Security Council resolutions,” the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.