NORTH Korea is warning the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on the nation over its nuclear program.
US President Donald Trump has taken a hard line with its leader Kim Jong Un, who has proceeded with nuclear and missile programs in defiance of UN Security Council sanctions.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, did not mince its words.
“In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only US imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the US mainland and reduce them to ashes,” it said.
Tillerson told reporters in Washington on Wednesday: “We’re reviewing all the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang to re-engage with us, but re-engage with us on a different footing than past talks have been held.”
US Vice President Mike Pence, on a tour of Asian allies, has repeatedly said that an “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over.
US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said during a visit to London that a military option must be part of the pressure brought to bear.
Ryan said it was unacceptable North Korea might be able to strike allies with nuclear weapons.
North Korea and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, at a meeting with top officials yesterday, repeatedly called for the military and security ministries to maintain vigilance.
The defense ministry said US and South Korean air forces were conducting an annual training exercise, codenamed Max Thunder, until April 28. North Korea routinely labels such exercises as preparations for invasion.
Meanwhile, South Korean presidential candidates clashed on Wednesday night in a debate over the planned deployment in South Korea of a US-supplied Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system, which has angered China.
Frontrunner Moon Jae-in was criticized for leaving his options open before the May 9 election.
On Monday, Hwang and Pence reaffirmed their plans to go ahead with the THAAD, but the decision will be up to the next South Korean president. China says the system’s powerful radar is a threat to its security.
North Korea says it has developed a missile that can strike the US mainland, but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology, including miniaturizing a nuclear warhead.
The US and Russia clashed at the United Nations on Wednesday over a US-drafted Security Council statement to condemn North Korea’s latest failed ballistic missile test.
Such statements by the 15-member council have to be agreed by consensus.
Previous statements denouncing missile launches “welcomed efforts by council members, as well as other states, to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue.” The latest draft statement dropped “through dialogue” and Russia requested it be included again.
“When we requested to restore the agreed language that was of political importance and expressed commitment to continue to work on the draft ... the US delegation without providing any explanations canceled the work on the draft,” the Russian UN mission said in a statement.
There has been some confusion over the whereabouts of a US aircraft carrier group after Trump said last week he had sent an “armada” as a warning to North Korea, even as the ships were still far from Korean waters.
The US military’s Pacific Command explained that the USS Carl Vinson strike group first had to complete a shorter-than-planned period of training with Australia.
It was now heading for the Western Pacific as ordered, it said.