In a terse response to President Trump's earlier threats and later promises of pre-emptive strikes, North Korea's vice foreign minister Han Song Ryol says it is not his own country but the United States and President Donald Trump who are "making trouble."
Vice Minister Han made the comments in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Pyongyang on Friday. Trump tweeted on Tuesday that North Korea was "looking for trouble" and added that if China doesn't do its part to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, the U.S. can handle it.
Han cited Trump's tweets as problematic, as well as the U.S. military's participation in exercises with South Korea and an aircraft carrier's move to the region.
"Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words. .... It's not the DPRK but the US and Trump that makes trouble."
Furthermore, North Korea's vice foreign minister said it will conduct its next nuclear test whenever its supreme headquarters sees fit, warning that the situation on the Korean Peninsula was in a "vicious cycle" as tensions with the U.S. and its allies deepen.
Han told AP that Pyongyang won't "keep its arms crossed" in the face of a U.S. pre-emptive strike.
As we detailed earlier, tensions have escalated on the Korean Peninsula, as this Saturday marks the anniversary of the birth of the nation's founder — Kim il-Sung, grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un. At the highest levels in South Korea and the U.S., sources told NBC News, there are fears North Korea could mark the "Day of the Sun" by testing a nuclear device. As discussed yesterday, North Korea in the past has used these national holidays to celebrate the strengths of the regime and to reinforce the national narrative of their independence, as confirmed by Cha.
"I think that is what President Trump is getting trying to get the Chinese to do," said Cha. "[It] would impose real pain and force real choices on North Korea — whether the costs are worth it for them to continue to pursue this program if they no longer have any sustenance."
In addition to the coal ships, the Chinese made an important gesture at the UN Thursday: A surprising abstention on a Security Council resolution condemning a Syrian chemical weapons attack. China didn't stand with the Russians on Syria, as it has in the past.