North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear programme.
South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, at a meeting with top officials on Thursday, repeatedly called for the military and security ministries to maintain vigilance.
The defence ministry said U.S. and South Korean air forces were conducting an annual training exercise, codenamed Max Thunder, until April 28. North Korea routinely labels such exercises preparations for invasion.
U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a hard line with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has rebuffed admonitions from sole major ally China and proceeded with nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, did not mince its words.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, on a tour of Asian allies, has said repeatedly an “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said during a visit to London the military option must be part of the pressure brought to bear.
Ryan said he was encouraged by the results of efforts to work with China to reduce tension, but that it was unacceptable North Korea might be able to strike allies with nuclear weapons.
North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.