North Korea launched another round of aggressive rhetoric at the United States on Thursday as media reports indicated troops in both China and South Korea were on high alert.
As a major military anniversary approached Tuesday, North Korea’s state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper hurled a threat at the United States.
“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,” read the newspaper.
South Korea said it was bracing for possible provocations as North Korea prepares to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People’s Army on Tuesday.
“It is a situation where a lot of exercise equipment is amassed in North Korea and also a lot of strategic assets are situated on the Korean peninsula because of the South Korea-U.S. military drills,” said South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng.
“We are closely watching the situation and will not be letting our guards down,” he added.
Meanwhile, CNN reported that China put cruise-missile-capable bombers “on high alert,” quoting unnamed U.S. officials who interpreted the move as a preparation for any outbreak of violence on the Korean Peninsula.
Some media reports also said Russia was moving military equipment towards the small portion of its border that it shares with North Korea. Russia would neither confirm nor deny the reports.
As rhetoric and tensions were rising, President Donald Trump dodged a direct question about the mental competence of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.
Trump was asked by Fox News reporter John Roberts whether he thought Kim was “mentally unstable, adding, “Is he a man that can be reasoned with?”
“As far as North Korea is concerned, we are in very good shape,” Trump responded. “We’re building our military rapidly. A lot of things have happened over the last short period of time. I have been here for approximately 91 days. We’re doing a lot of work … I can’t answer your question on stability. I hope the answer is a positive one, not a negative one, but hopefully that will be something that gets taken care of.”
Trump also took a moment to praise China, which he has been urging to put pressure on North Korea.
“I have great respect for the president of China,” Trump said. “As you know, we had a great summit in Florida … and got to know each other and I think like each other. I can say from my standpoint I liked him very much. I respect him very much and I think he is working very hard … I actually told him, I said, you’ll make a much better deal on trade if you get rid of this menace or do something about the menace of North Korea, because that’s what it is.”