North Korean state media has warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” in South Korea, and the US mainland.
The warning comes after secretary of state Rex Tillerson said the US was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear programme.
US 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 UN security council sanctions.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, did not mince its words.
“In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes,” it said.
North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950 to 1953 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
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 US 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 an invasion.
“We are conducting a practical and more intensive exercise than ever,” South Korean pilot lieutenant colonel Lee Bum-chul told reporters.
“Through this exercise, I am sure we can deter war and remove our enemy’s intention to provoke us.”
South Korean presidential candidates clashed on Wednesday night in a debate over the planned deployment in South Korea of a US-supplied terminal high altitude area defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, which has angered China.