North Korea condemned on Tuesday the United States’ “reckless” deployment of a naval strike group to the region, saying it is ready for war if Washington moved against it.
The strike group — which includes the Nimitz-class aircraft supercarrier USS Carl Vinson — cancelled a planned trip to Australia this weekend, heading to the Korean peninsula instead in a show of force.
“This goes to prove that the US reckless moves for invading the DPRK have reached a serious phase,” a spokesman for the North’s foreign ministry said according to state news agency KCNA.
“The DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US,” he said, using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
President Donald Trump, fresh from ordering a missile strike on Syria that was widely interpreted as a warning to North Korea, has asked his advisors for a range of options to rein in Pyongyang, a top US official said Sunday.
Trump has previously threatened unilateral action against Pyongyang if China — the North’s sole major ally — fails to help curb its neighbor’s nuclear ambitions. But Pyongyang’s response suggested the reclusive state is determined to continue on its current path, despite repeated rounds of United Nations sanctions.
“We will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms,” the foreign ministry spokesman said.
“We will hold the US wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions.”
The North convened a Supreme People’s Assembly session on Tuesday, one of its twice-yearly sessions in which major appointments are announced and national policy goals are formally approved. It did not immediately release details.
But South Korean officials took pains to quell talk in social media of an impending security crisis or outbreak of war.
“We’d like to ask precaution so as not to get blinded by exaggerated assessment about the security situation on the Korean peninsula,” Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun said.
Speculation over an imminent nuclear test is brewing as the North marks anniversaries including the 105th birthday of its late founder on Saturday — sometimes celebrated with a demonstration of military might.
Thousands of troops and top military officials gathered in Pyongyang on Monday to pledge loyalty to leader Kim Jong-Un ahead of his grandfather’s birth anniversary, state media said.
Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad sent a message of congratulations to mark the event, lambasting “big powers” for their “expansionist” policy.
“The friendly two countries are celebrating this anniversary and, at the same time, conducting a war against big powers’ wild ambition to subject all countries to their expansionist and dominationist policy and deprive them of their rights to self-determination,” the North’s KCNA news agency quoted the message as saying.
“The two peoples of Syria and the DPRK are as ever struggling for their rights to self-determination and national sovereignty and the security and prosperity of their countries.”
State TV showed thousands of goose-stepping soldiers marching in unison, carrying giant portraits of the regime’s founder Kim Il-Sung and his son, Kim Jong-Il, in front of the Kumsusan mausoleum where their embalmed bodies are on display.
“If they (the US and the South) try to ignite the spark of war, we will wipe out all of the invaders without a trace with… our strong preemptive nuclear strike,” Hwang Pyong-So, director of the political bureau at the North’s army, said in a speech.
Kim was not seen at the event televised on Tuesday.
Pyongyang is on a quest to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five nuclear tests, two of them last year.
South Korea’s top nuclear envoy said Monday after talks with his Chinese counterpart that the two nations had agreed to “strong” new measures to punish Pyongyang if it carried out another nuclear test.
The talks came shortly after Trump hosted Chinese leader Xi Jinping for a summit at which he pressed Beijing to do more to curb the North’s nuclear ambitions.
“(We) are prepared to chart our own course if this is something China is just unable to coordinate with us,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said after the summit.