A photo taken on May 10, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) reacting as he talks to an unidentified soldier on a balcony of the Grand People’s Study House during a military parade and mass rally on Kim Il-Sung square in Pyongyang. Nuclear-armed North Korea launched four ballistic missiles on March 6, 2017 in another challenge to President Donald Trump, with three landing provocatively close to America’s ally Japan. Seoul and Washington began annual joint military exercises last week that always infuriate Pyongyang, with the North’s military warning of “merciless nuclear counter-action”. Ed Jones / AFP
An official North Korean website warned Monday that Pyongyang will “wipe out” the United States if Washington starts a war on the peninsula, the latest tit-for-tat sabre-rattling that has sent tensions soaring in the region.
The US supercarrier Carl Vinson will arrive in waters off the Korean peninsula “in a matter of days”, Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday, amid reports the North could be preparing a sixth nuclear test.
Pyongyang is still believed to be far from reaching its aim of building a missile capable of reaching the US mainland, but the secretive nation has ramped up its rhetoric in recent weeks and has carried out two rocket tests this month alone.
In a series of editorials the Rodong Sinmun newspaper — the official mouthpiece of the ruling Workers’ Party — said the North’s forces were undeterred and called the US strike group’s imminent arrival “undisguised military blackmail”.
“Such threat may startle a jellyfish, but can never work on the DPRK,” it said Monday, using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
A day earlier it said the North’s revolutionary forces were “combat-ready to sink the US nuclear aircraft carrier with a single strike”.
Pyongyang’s rhetoric intensifies every spring, when the US and South Korea hold joint exercises it sees as rehearsals for an attack on the North.
A separate editorial on the North’s propaganda website Uriminzokkiri Monday claimed that the dispatching of the Carl Vinson signalled a war: “It is proof that an invasion of the North is nearing day by day.”
The editorial, described as being written by an army officer, said it was a “big miscalculation” for Washington to compare the North to Syria, which did not launch an “immediate counterattack” after a US cruise missile strike earlier this month.
In the event of an attack, it said, “The world will witness how Washington’s rash nuclear aircraft carriers are turned into a huge pile of steel and buried at sea and how a country called America is wiped out from the Earth.”
There is speculation the North may conduct another test to mark the 85th anniversary of the founding of its Korean People’s Army (KPA) on Tuesday.
But it has never tested an intercontinental ballistic missile with sufficient range to reach the continental United States — although it has ambitions to develop one — nor is it known to have miniaturised atomic technology sufficiently to be able to fit a nuclear warhead on a rocket.
US officials have repeatedly warned that “all options are on the table” to curb the North’s weapons ambitions, including military strikes.