North Korea says it is up for war if US President Donald Trump wants it

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Pyongyang: US President Donald Trump’s tweets are adding fuel to a “vicious cycle” of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea’s vice foreign minister told The Associated Press. The official added that if the US shows any sign of “reckless” military aggression, Pyongyang is ready to launch a pre-emptive strike of its own.

Vice Minister Han Song Ryol said Pyongyang has determined the Trump administration is “more vicious and more aggressive” than that of Barack Obama. He added that North Korea will keep building up its nuclear arsenal in “quality and quantity” and said Pyongyang is ready to go to war if that’s what Trump wants.



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North Korea ‘on the brink of war’

North Korea says the US is pushing the situation on the Korean peninsula ‘to the brink of war’ as an American naval fleet nears the region.

Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington go back to President Harry Truman and the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. But the heat has been rising rapidly since Trump took office in January.

“Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words,” Han said. “It’s not the DPRK but the US and Trump that makes trouble.”

He added: “We will go to war if they choose.”

A US State Department official said later Friday the US was aligning “all elements of national power” to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

The official, who wasn’t authorised to be quoted by name and demanded anonymity, lamented Pyongyang’s “far too common and far too dangerous” provocations, and said Washington would work with international partners to cut the North’s government off “from the rest of the world.”

Han dismissed the suggestion Trump made last year during his presidential campaign that he was willing to meet Kim Jong Un, possibly over hamburgers.

“I think that was nothing more than lip service during the campaign to make himself more popular,” Han said. “Now we are comparing Trump’s policy toward the DPRK with the former administration’s and we have concluded that it’s becoming more vicious and more aggressive.”

Han said North Korea changed its military strategy two years ago, when the reports of “decapitation strike” training began to really get attention, to stress pre-emptive actions.

“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,” he said. “Whatever comes from the US, we will cope with it. We are fully prepared to handle it.”

Japan discusses evacuation

Japan’s National Security Council (NSC) has discussed how to evacuate its nearly 60,000 citizens from South Korea in the event of a crisis, amid rising concern over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Besides commercial ships and planes, Japan would want to send military aircraft and ships to evacuate its citizens if the South Korean Government agreed, an official said.

He declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic.

The council has previously also discussed how to cope with a possible flood of North Korean refugees into Japan, among whom there might be North Korean spies and agents, Japanese media reported.

A Japanese ruling party lawmaker and a government source said coping with possible North Korean refugees would be among the matters for which Japan had to prepare.

However, they said there was concern that any sign of actual preparations for a possible crisis would boost public anxiety.

China weighs in

China said on Friday tension over North Korea had to be stopped from reaching an “irreversible and unmanageable stage” as a US aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region amid fears the North may conduct a sixth nuclear weapons test on Saturday.

Concern has grown since the US Navy fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly gas attack, raising questions about Mr Trump’s plans for North Korea, which has conducted missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN and unilateral sanctions.

The United States has warned that a policy of “strategic patience” is over. US Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Korea on Sunday on a long-planned 10-day trip to Asia.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally and neighbour which nevertheless opposes its weapons programme, has called for talks leading to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing.

“Once a war really happens, the result will be nothing but losing all round and no one could become a winner,” Mr Wang told reporters in Beijing on Friday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

On Saturday, it marks the “Day of the Sun”, the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung.

US ally South Korea warned against any North Korean “provocation”, such as a nuclear or missile test.

“There is certain to be powerful punitive measure that will be difficult for the North Korean regime to endure,” the South’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

‘Vicious and Aggressive’

Mr Trump’s policy toward North Korea is more “vicious and aggressive” than previous administrations, North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Han Song Ryo said in an interview with the Associated Press on Friday.

“We certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a US pre-emptive strike,” he said. “We will go to war if they choose.”

While not publicly defining its plans, the White House has said that all options are on the table to prevent North Korea from acquiring the ability to strike the US with a nuclear weapon. Despite the saber rattling, Mr Trump has found little support – publicly or behind the scenes – from allies South Korea and Japan.

A US strike may prompt North Korea to immediately unleash artillery fire on Seoul and its surroundings, which is home to just more than half of South Korea’s 51 million people, according to a report published by Stratfor last year. It then may activate air or naval assets and larger ballistic missiles that can target South Korean, Japanese or American bases in the region with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Air China suspends Pyongyang flights

While Mr Trump has put North Korea on notice that he will not tolerate any more provocation, US officials have said his administration is focusing its strategy on tougher economic sanctions.

Mr Trump said on Thursday North Korea was a problem that “will be taken care of” and he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping would “work very hard” to help resolve it.

Mr Trump has also said the United States is prepared to tackle the crisis without China, if necessary. He diverted the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its strike group towards the Korean peninsula last weekend in a show of force.

Mr Trump has also been pressing China to do more to rein in North Korea.

China banned all imports of North Korean coal on February 26 under UN sanctions, cutting off the North’s most important export, and on Friday, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said national airline Air China was suspending flights to Pyongyang.

It did not say why the flights, which operate on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, were being suspended and Air China could not be reached for comment.

Worry about North Korean aggression has also led to a deterioration of ties between China and South Korea because China objects to the deployment of a US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in the South.

“It’s not hard to see that ever since the United States and Republic of Korea decided to deploy THAAD, the situation has not become harmonious but has become more tense,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, said in response to a question about the system.

South Korea and the United States say the sole purpose of the THAAD is to guard against North Korean missiles, but China says that its powerful radar could penetrate its territory.

The dollar fell on Friday against a basket of currencies, on track for a losing week as tension over North Korea underpinned the perceived safe-haven Japanese yen.

Japan’s Nikkei business daily said the government had discussed how to rescue an 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 spies.

In Pyongyang, retired soldier Ho Song Chol told Reuters that North Korea would win should there be any conflict with the United States.

“We don’t think about other things, we just live in our belief that we will win as long as our Supreme Leader is with us,” Ho said, referring to Kim Jong Un.

Kang Gil-won, a 26-year-old graduate living in Seoul, said his biggest concern was not North Korea, but finding work in a tough job market.

“There’s no concern that war is going to break out tomorrow,” he told Reuters at a “study café” where many job seekers prepare for interviews.

“Getting a job is a war that I feel in my bones.”

AP, Reuters, Bloomberg



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