China’s Foreign Minister warned that an armed conflict with North Korea may break out “at any moment,” urging Washington and Pyongyang to tone down their hawkish rhetoric and realize the price to pay for both sides if a new Korean War were to start.
According to some media reports, the ongoing US military buildup close to North Korean waters may go far beyond an ordinary show of force. On Thursday, American intelligence officials told NBC that the US has sent two destroyers capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles in the region, with one just 300 miles (some 480 km) from the North Korean nuclear test site.
American long-range bombers have also been positioned in Guam to hit North Korean targets. In turn, North Korea warned on Tuesday it would retaliate to any sign of American aggression with all means available.
“If the US dares opt for a military action, crying out for ‘pre-emptive attack’, [Pyongyang] is ready to react. We will hold the US wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions,” North Korea’s deputy foreign minister said in an interview with AP.
“The US introduces into the Korean Peninsula, the world’s biggest hotspot, huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening peace and security of the peninsula and pushing the situation there to the brink of a war,” the North’s General Staff said in a statement carried by KCNA.
North Korea will strike US military bases in Japan and South Korea, as well as the South Korean president’s residence in Seoul, if America engages in aggression against Pyongyang, North Korea’s General Staff warned, according to state news agency KCNA.
North Korea’s military promised to “ruthlessly ravage” the US if the American aircraft carrier group that is currently on its way to the region takes aggressive action.
“Our toughest counteraction against the US and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive,” a statement from the military said.
“The Trump administration, which made a surprise guided cruise-missile strike on Syria on April 6, has entered the path of open threat and blackmail,” the statement added.
The General Staff noted that, American military bases in the Pacific, Guam, the island of Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of US troops in Japan, as well as the US mainland, are all within reach of North Korea’s strategic missiles.
The extraordinary warning comes amid massive US military buildup near the Korean Peninsula, with the carrier strike group ‘USS Carl Vinson’ heading towards the region. While US President Donald Trump is threatening to “take care” of the North Korean “problem,” Pyongyang says it is ready to repel any military action.
“Lately, tensions have risen with the US and the ROK [South Korea] on one side, and the DPRK [North Korea] on the other,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on Friday, adding that “One has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment.”
He cautioned both sides that “if a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner,” and that whichever side provoked a conflict “must assume the historic responsibility and pay the corresponding price.”
Earlier in the day, Wang said both Washington and Pyongyang must refrain from “provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” as cited by Reuters.
In an apparent attempt to cool down the US administration’s bellicose rhetoric, he added: “Force cannot solve the problem – dialogue can be the only channel to resolving the problem.”
China, North Korea’s close ally and main trading partner, does not welcome Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but advocates finding political solution to the crisis. For its part, Russia, which also shares a land border with the reclusive state, expressed deep concern over the mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The tension on the Korean Peninsula was one of the topics Wang Yi discussed with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in a Friday phone call.
Moscow stands for “politico-diplomatic reconciliation” and urges all parties to show patience and refrain from “any actions which might mean making provocative steps,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday.