On Friday, North Korea’s vice foreign minister said the country’s rumored next nuclear test would take place any time the leadership decides. Han Song-ryol said there was a “vicious cycle” happening on the Korean Peninsula, and that Pyongyang wouldn’t countenance a preemptive strike from Washington.
"If the U.S. comes with reckless military maneuvers then we will confront it with a pre-emptive strike," Han said. "We've got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a US pre-emptive strike."
NBC reported Thursday that US intelligence officials had told them the US was prepared to launch a pre-emptive strike with conventional weapons if a nuclear test appeared imminent. A few days before, a US carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson was ordered to the Korean Peninsula.
This comes as the Japan-based 18th Wing of the US Air Force conducted a surprise military exercise at Okinawa’s Kadena Air Force base as a clear warning to the North. The show of force included a group of E-3 Sentries, F-15 Eagles, KC-135 Stratotankers and HH-60 Pave Hawks.
There has been much speculation about when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will conduct its next nuclear test, with some looking to the upcoming birthday of founding president Kim Il-sung, or the "Day of The Sun" on Saturday as a likely date, or the anniversary of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) on April 25.
On Tuesday, Trump wrote on Twitter that the DPRK is "looking for trouble," and though the White House has been pressuring China to help rein Pyongyang in, Trump has stated that Washington intends to handle the North with or with without Beijing’s assistance.
According to Han, Trump is only, "making trouble" with his "aggressive" tweets.
China has been calling for a diplomatic resolution to escalating tensions, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently telling reporters in Beijing that, "military force cannot resolve the issue."
Along with numerous ballistic missile tests over the years, North Korea has conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, as well as two last year.
Pyongyang has said that their nuclear weapons development is designed to counter US policy that they believe is meant to invade the country and topple the government, namely supreme leader Kim Jong-un.
The North points to incidents like the controversial recent missile strike launched against a Syrian air base by Trump in response to what the US calls a chemical attack by Syrian forces against their own people as justification for their nuclear program.
A North Korean foreign minister called the Syrian strike an "unforgivable act of aggression against a sovereign state" that the DPRK "strongly condemned." He said the moved proved that Pyongyang’s decision to continue developing nuclear weapons was "the right choice a million times over."
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry recently warned that the response to another nuclear test would be "unbearable," saying in a statement, "If the North goes ahead with provocations such as a nuclear test or ICBM launch, we warn again that its regime will surely face unbearably strong punitive measures … The government is having necessary consultations with relevant countries including the talks held with China's nuclear envoy Wu Dawei this week to discuss stern reactions to the North's additional strategic provocations," the Yonhap News Agency reports.
This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.