| PYONGYANG, April 14
PYONGYANG, April 14 North Korea denounced the
United States on Friday for bringing "huge nuclear strategic
assets" to the Korean peninsula as a U.S. aircraft carrier group
headed for the region amid concerns the North may conduct a
sixth nuclear weapon test.
Tension has risen since the U.S. Navy fired 59 Tomahawk
missiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly
gas attack, raising concerns about U.S. President Donald Trump's
plans for North Korea, which has conducted missile and nuclear
tests in defiance of U.N. and bilateral sanctions.
The United States has warned that its policy of "strategic
patience" is over. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence travels to
South Korea on Sunday on a long-planned 10-day trip to Asia.
A spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry's
Institute for Disarmament and Peace issued a statement
condemning the United States for the attack on Syria, while also
calling for "peace by strength".
"The U.S. introduces into the Korean peninsula, the world's
biggest hotspot, huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously
threatening peace and security of the peninsula and pushing the
situation there to the brink of a war," the North's KCNA news
agency said on Friday, citing the statement.
"This has created a dangerous situation in which a
thermo-nuclear war may break out any moment on the peninsula and
posed serious threat to the world peace and security, to say
nothing of those in Northeast Asia," it said.
North Korea, still technically at war with the South after
their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, has on
occasion conducted missile or nuclear tests to coincide with big
political events and often threatens the United States, South
Korea and Japan.
On Saturday, it marks the "Day of the Sun", the 105th
anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung.
"OPPORTUNITY TO TALK"
China, North Korea's sole major ally and neighbour, which
nevertheless opposes its weapons programme, has called for talks
leading to a peaceful resolution and the denuclearisation of the
"Military force cannot resolve the issue," Chinese Foreign
Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing on Thursday. "Amid
tensions we will also find a kind of opportunity to return to
While Trump has put North Korea on notice that he will not
tolerate any more provocation, U.S. officials have said his
administration is focusing its strategy on tougher economic
Trump said on Thursday Pyongyang was a problem that "will be
taken care of" and that he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping
would "work very hard" to help resolve the challenge.
Trump has also said the United States is prepared to tackle
the crisis without China, if necessary.
He diverted the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft
carrier and its strike group towards the Korean peninsula last
weekend in a show of force.
However, a senior Trump administration official described as
"flat wrong" an NBC News report citing senior U.S. intelligence
officials as saying the United States is prepared to launch a
pre-emptive conventional weapons strike should officials be
convinced North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear
Another U.S. official also dismissed the report, calling it
"speculative at best".
The Pentagon declined to comment, saying, as a policy, it
does not discuss future operations "nor publicly speculate on
Media in Japan said the government confirmed it would take
all precautions regarding possible fresh North Korean
The Nikkei business daily said government discussions
included how to rescue the estimated 57,000 Japanese citizens in
South Korea as well as how to cope with a possible flood of
North Korean refugees coming to Japan, among whom might be North
Korean spies and agents.
Kyodo news agency said separately Japan had begun working on
plans to respond to a potential crisis on the Korean peninsula
in February, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Trump for a
summit in the United States.
"The government has great interest in North Korea's nuclear
and missile moves and is collecting and analysing information,"
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the
government's top spokesman, told a news conference.
"I will refrain from commenting on individual specific
content or situations. At present, we are in close contact with
the United States and South Korea and in addition to urging (the
North) to refrain from provocative actions and observe relevant
U.N. Security Council resolutions," he said.
(Additional reporting by by Nick Macfie in SEOUL, Linda Sieg in
TOKYO and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Writing by Nick Macfie;
Editing by Paul Tait)