North Korea's regime defied an increasingly broader chorus of voices, including the US, Japan, China, South Korea and Russia, saying on Monday that it will continue its nuclear weapons tests, and warned it would "speed up to the maximum” its measures for bolstering its nuclear deterrence in response to the U.S. increasing "aggression and hysteria" against the country, a North Korea Foreign Ministry spokesman says in statement distributed by the official Korean Central News Agency.
"Now that the U.S. is kicking up the overall racket for sanctions and pressure against the DPRK, pursuant to its new DPRK policy called 'maximum pressure and engagement', the DPRK will speed up at the maximum pace the measure for bolstering its nuclear deterrence," a spokesman for North Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement carried by its official KCNA news agency. North Korea's "measures for bolstering the nuclear force to the maximum will be taken in a consecutive and successive way at any moment and any place decided by its supreme leadership," the spokesman said.
North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests and a series of missile tests in defiance of U.N. Security Council and unilateral resolutions. It has been conducting such tests at an unprecedented rate and is believed to have made progress in developing intermediate-range and submarine-launched missiles. The communist nation test-launched a missile on Saturday which Washington and Seoul said was unsuccessful, but which nevertheless drew widespread international condemnation.
U.S. President Donald Trump has said a "major, major conflict" with North Korea is possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, while China said last week the situation on the Korean peninsula could escalate or slip out of control.
Over the weekend, Trump said a "major, major conflict" with North Korea is possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, while China said last week the situation on the Korean peninsula could escalate or slip out of control. As preemptive deterrence, the US has sent the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group and the Michigan nuclear sub to waters off the Korean peninsula to join drills with South Korea.
A diplomatic row was averted over the weekend, when South Korea said the United States had reaffirmed it would shoulder the cost of deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to counter the North Korean threat, days after Trump said Seoul should pay for the $1 billion battery. As Reuters reports, in a telephone call on Sunday, Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster contradicted the president, and reassured his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, that the U.S. alliance with South Korea was its top priority in the Asia-Pacific region, the South's presidential office said.
While the recent THAAD deployment has drawn protests from China, which says the powerful radar that can penetrate its territory will undermine regional security, and from residents of the area in which it is being deployed, the United States is seeking more help from China to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development.
Trump, asked about his message to North Korea after the latest missile test, told reporters: "You'll soon find out," but did not elaborate on what the U.S. response would be.
"There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what is happening in North Korea," White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told ABC's "This Week."