North Korea state media warns of nuclear strike if provoked

Tension has escalated sharply on the Korean peninsula, with talk of military action by the United States gaining traction

KCNA—Handout via Reuters
A view of the test-fire of Pukguksong-2 guided by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the spot

PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korean state media warned on Tuesday of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression as a U.S. Navy strike group steamed toward the western Pacific.President Donald Trump, who has urged China to do more to rein in its impoverished neighbor, said in a tweet that North Korea was “looking for trouble” and the U.S. would “solve the problem” with or without China’s help. Tension has escalated sharply on the Korean peninsula, with talk of military action by the United States gaining traction following its strikes last week against Syria and amid concerns the reclusive North may soon conduct a sixth nuclear test. “Our revolutionary strong army is keenly watching every move by enemy elements with our nuclear sight focused on the U.S. invasionary bases not only in South Korea and the Pacific operation theater but also in the U.S. mainland,” it said.South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn warned of “greater provocations” by North Korea and ordered the military to intensify monitoring and to ensure close communication with the U.S.”It is possible the North may wage greater provocations such as a nuclear test timed with various anniversaries including the Supreme People’s Assembly,” said Hwang, acting leader since former president Park Geun-hye was removed amid a graft scandal.Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met in Florida last week and Trump pressed Xi to do more to rein in North Korea. The North convened a Supreme People’s Assembly session on Tuesday, one of its twice-yearly sessions attended by leader Kim Jong Un, and reported a successful national budget execution and personnel appointments.There was no mention of its nuclear weapons program or being under threat from the U.S., according to KCNA.South Korean officials took pains to quell talk in social media of an impending security crisis or outbreak of war.”We’d like to ask for precaution so as not to get blinded by exaggerated assessment about the security situation on the Korean peninsula,” Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun said.Saturday is the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country’s founding father and grandfather of current ruler, Kim Jong Un. A military parade is expected in the North’s capital Pyongyang to mark the day. North Korea often also marks important anniversaries with tests of its nuclear or missile capabilities in breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions.The North’s foreign ministry, in a statement carried by KCNA, said the U.S. Navy strike group’s approach showed Washington’s “reckless moves for invading had reached a serious phase.” North Korea is emerging as one of the most pressing foreign policy problems facing the Trump administration.The North has conducted five nuclear tests, two of them last year, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States. The Trump administration is reviewing its policy toward North Korea and has said all options are on the table, including military strikes, but U.S. officials said nonmilitary action appeared to be at the top of the list. The U.S. Navy strike group Carl Vinson was diverted from port calls to Australia and would move toward the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula. U.S. officials said the strike group would take more than a week to reach waters near the Korean peninsula. China and South Korea agreed on Monday to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carried out nuclear or long-range missile tests, a senior official in Seoul said.