The North Korean government, via a state-run newspaper, warned of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” against the U.S. that would reduce both its military forces in South Korea and the American mainland “to ashes,” according to a Reuters report published Thursday.
"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," The Rodong Sinmun, the officials newspaper of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, said.
Such a threat is in line with past bellicose threats made by the North Korean government, which relies on bellicose rhetoric in part to maintain support among its own people. In recent weeks, North Korea has stepped up its military activity, attempting two missile tests, only one of which was successful, and ramping up its tough talk towards the U.S., South Korea and Japan.
The timing of North Korea’s saber-rattling, which has coincided with the birthday of its founder Kim Il Sung, also falls in line with past behavior.
Seeking to corral North Korea and its nuclear weapon program, U.S. President Donald Trump has turned to China, the North Korean government’s chief international benefactor. Trump, who campaigned on taking a hard line with China on economic issues, has expressed a willingness to offer more favorable terms on trade if the Chinese government is able to rein in North Korea.
Should China refuse or prove unable to do so, Trump has said the U.S. will deal with North Korea with the help of its allies. Vice President Mike Pence, currently on a multi-day tour of the Asia-Pacific region, has warned that “the era of strategic patience is over” when it comes to North Korea.
As a more tangible signal of the Trump administration’s approach to North Korea, U.S. Pacific Command and the White House announced earlier this month that the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and its battle group had been deployed to the waters off the Korean Peninsula. That statement turned out to be untrue and the Carl Vinson was photographed last weekend heading south near Indonesia, away from North Korea and towards planned military exercises with the Australian navy.
Those exercises completed, the Carl Vinson is now headed towards the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. military and the White House have said.