Pyongyang has threatened “merciless military strikes” on United States personnel as the Trump administration declares the “era of strategic patience is over” when it comes to dealing with North Korea.
US Vice-President Mike Pence, who has just begun a 10-day tour of Asia and Australia, on Monday (AEST) said the Trump administration would work to stabilise the region and protect South Korea by “peaceable means, or ultimately by whatever means are necessary”.
“All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country,” he said during a visit to the demilitarised zone that separates North and South Korea.
“There was a period of strategic patience but the era of strategic patience is over.”
In response, North Korean deputy foreign minister Sin Hong-cho on Tuesday morning told Al Jazeera “the time of dictating orders by brandishing the US military might has gone”.
“If those businessmen in power in the US thought of intimidating us by any military or sanction threats – as the Obama administration used to do and failed – they will soon find out such threats are useless,” Mr Sin said.
“If we notice any sign of assault on our sovereignty, our army will launch merciless military strikes against the US aggressors, wherever they may exist, from the remote US lands to the American military bases on the Korean peninsula, such as those of Japan and elsewhere,” he said.
The US maintains several military bases in Australia.
Labelling North Korea’s failed missile test at the weekend a “provocation”, Mr Pence said the regime “would do well not to test [President Trump’s] resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region”.
“President Trump has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change,” he said.
“We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable.”
Rather than backing down, North Korean vice foreign minister Han Song-ryoi was quoted by the BBC as saying the missile tests would be increased.
“We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis,”Mr Han said, adding that an “all-out war” would result if the US took military action.
‘Coming to a head’
Mr Pence’s trip comes after the Kim regime launched a missile at the weekend that “blew up almost immediately”, according to US Pacific Command.
One analyst, former British Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, has said it was possible the US may have caused the test to fail through a cyber attack.
The failed test followed a showing of North Korean military might during a festival to mark the birth of the country’s founder, which included the display of what appeared to be long-range ballistic missiles.
Foreign policy experts have suggested that some of the missiles may have been fake or empty.
On Monday, North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador Kim In-ryong told a news conference “if the US dares opt for a military action,” North Korea “is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US”.
Mr Kim said the Trump administration’s deployment of the Carl Vinson nuclear carrier task group to waters off the Korean Peninsula again “proves the US reckless moves for invading the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) have reached a serious phase of its scenario”.
Earlier Monday, National Security Adviser General HR McMaster said the US and its allies agreed that the North Korea “problem is coming to a head”.
“The President has made clear that he will not accept the United States and its allies and partners in the region being under threat from this hostile regime with nuclear weapons,” he said on US network ABC’s This Week.
“And so we’re working together with our allies and partners, and with the Chinese leadership, to develop a range of options.”
Mr Trump recently met Chinese President Xi Jinping where he urged China to pressure its neighbour to abandon its nuclear arsenal.