North Korea has warned that the world is on the brink of “thermo-nuclear war” as fears rise that Pyongyang is planning a test of military hardware that could provoke a response from President Donald Trump.
Tensions over the North’s nuclear ambitions escalated further on Friday after reports in the US that Washington was ready to launch a pre-emptive strike, while China called for all sides to pull back from an “irreversible and unmanageable stage”.
Evidence of increased activity in recent weeks at the North's nuclear test sites has sparked fears that the country may be about to conduct its sixth nuclear test since 2006 at the weekend.
Tension between Washington and Pyongyang has risen in recent days with a US navy strike group being ordered into the western Pacific Ocean.
The redeployment of the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson strike group, officially described as a response to “earlier provocations”, was seen as sending a signal to North Korea.
Mr Trump described the force as an “armada” and said that submarines were being sent which were “far more powerful than the aircraft carrier.”
Alluding to the flotilla, a statement from a North Korean governmental body said: “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.
"This has created a dangerous situation in which a thermo-nuclear war may break out any moment," the Foreign Ministry's Institute for Disarmament and Peace added.
Meanwhile, a senior North Korean official said Mr Trump's tweets were adding fuel to a "vicious cycle" of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Han Song-ryol, North Korea's vice foreign minister, told Associated Press: “Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words."
The official did not rule out the possibility of a test in the near future, saying: "That is something that our headquarters decides.”
Mr Han also said that Pyongyang would not "keep its arms crossed" in the face of a pre-emptive strike by the US.
China, North Korea’s sole ally, reiterated its call for a peaceful solution to the tensions on Friday.
Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, told reporters in Beijing: “We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage.
"Force cannot solve the problem, dialogue can be the only channel to resolve the problem."
Follow the link to see the original piece published by The Telegraph April 14, 2017.