Whether China is right about North Korea conducting a nuclear test on April 25 remains to be seen, but for now Kim Jong-Un is content with merely escalating the verbal warfare and overnight North Korean state media warned the United States of a "super-mighty preemptive strike" following the latest round of comments by Rex Tillerson who said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear programme.
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 according to Reuters.
The threat will hardly come as a surprise: the reclusive communist nation regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea and the United States "and has shown no let-up in its belligerence after a failed missile test on Sunday, a day after putting on a huge display of missiles at a parade in Pyongyang."
The comments come in response to Tillerson statement in Washington on Wednesday when he told reporters that "we're reviewing all the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang to re-engage with us, but re-engage with us on a different footing than past talks have been held,"
Furthermore, Paul Ryan said during a visit to London the military option must be part of the pressure brought to bear. "Allowing this dictator to have that kind of power is not something that civilised nations can allow to happen," he said in reference to Kim. Ryan said he was encouraged by the results of efforts to work with China to reduce tension, but that it was unacceptable North Korea might be able to strike allies with nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, the US and Russia clashed at the United Nations on Wednesday over a U.S.-drafted Security Council statement - which has to be agreed by all participants in the 15-member council - to condemn North Korea's latest failed ballistic missile test. Curiously, diplomats said China had agreed to the statement.
Previous statements denouncing missile launches "welcomed efforts by council members, as well as other states, to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue". The latest draft statement dropped "through dialogue" and Russia requested it be included again.
"When we requested to restore the agreed language that was of political importance and expressed commitment to continue to work on the draft ... the U.S. delegation without providing any explanations cancelled the work on the draft," the Russian U.N. mission said in a statement.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China believed in the Security Council maintaining unity. "Speaking with one voice is extremely important to the Security Council appropriately responding to the relevant issue on the peninsula," he told reporters.
With North Korean tensions lingering, there remains some confusion over the whereabouts of a U.S. aircraft carrier group after Trump said last week he had sent an "armada" as a warning to North Korea, even as the ships were still far from Korean waters. The U.S. military's Pacific Command explained that the USS Carl Vinson strike group first had to complete a shorter-than-planned period of training with Australia. It was now heading for the Western Pacific as ordered, it said.
The incident has also become a source of mockery for China, whose influential Global Times newspaper, which is published by the People's Daily, wondered whether the misdirection was deliberate.
"The truth seems to be that the U.S. military and president jointly created fake news and it is without doubt a rare scandal in U.S. history, which will be bound to cripple Trump's and U.S. dignity," it said.