A senior North Korean official has accused the US of turning the Korean peninsula into “the world’s biggest hotspot” and creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment”.
North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador, Kim In-ryong, described US-South Korean military exercises as the largest ever “aggressive war drill” and said his country was “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US”.
Kim’s warning came as the US vice-president, Mike Pence, assured Japan that Washington would work closely with its allies in the region to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis and denuclearise the Korean peninsula.
“We appreciate the challenging times in which the people of Japan live with increasing provocations from across the Sea of Japan,” Pence said during talks in Tokyo with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, on Tuesday. “We are with you 100%.”
Pence and Abe repeated calls for China to play a bigger role in reining in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
“While all options are on the table,” Pence said, “President Trump is determined to work closely with Japan, with South Korea, with all our allies in the region, and with China.”
He added: “We seek peace always as a country, as does Japan, but as you know and the United States knows, peace comes through strength and we will stand strongly with Japan and strongly with our allies for a peace and security in this region.”
Along with South Korea, Japan is particularly vulnerable to a North Korean attack as it is within range of the regime’s conventional weapons.