A top North Korean official is threatening a preemptive strike against the U.S. if his nation believes America is taking “reckless” military action.
Vice Minister Han Song Ryol on Friday told The Associated Press that President Trump’s tweets are part of a “vicious cycle” of escalated tensions in the region, adding that North Korea will continue to stockpile more nuclear warheads and improve on the country’s nuclear program.
As the U.S. continues to publicly weigh options to contain the country and its nuclear ambition, Han said North Korea would not simply stand by if it believed Trump would follow through on his threats.
“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 U.S. pre-emptive strike,” Han said. “Whatever comes from the U.S., we will cope with it. We are fully prepared to handle it.”
NBC News on Thursday reported said that the U.S. is prepared to preemptively strike North Korea if it decides to test a nuclear weapon, a report that was disputed by other reports and government sources.
The report added that two American destroyers are in the area, with one armed and ready about 300 miles from North Korea’s nuclear test site. This week, the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group began to move toward the area.
While the international community has sought to tamp down North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons, the political leadership there has long been developing the capability and has tested those weapons underground at least five times. Han specifically did not rule out another test in his interview with the AP.
The comments from the North Korean regime are part of escalated tensions between the dictatorship and the West that have taken hold since Trump took office. Ever since North Korea tested a missile while Trump was meeting with Japanese President Shinzo Abe, Trump has taken a tough line on the nation, including with strong words on Twitter. The American president has also leaned on China, both in public and private, to take a larger role in the situation in the East.
Han specifically chided Trump for those tough words, calling the new administration “more vicious and more aggressive” than former President Obama’s administration.
“Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words,” Han said. “It’s not [North Korea] but the U.S. and Trump that makes trouble.”