Trump issues new warning

US President Donald Trump issued a new threat to North Korea yesterday, saying American weapons were “locked and loaded” as Pyongyang accused him of driving the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war.

Trump kept up the war of words on Twitter shortly after the North Korean state news agency, KCNA, put out a statement blaming him for the escalated tensions.

“Trump is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war, making such outcries as ‘the US will not rule out a war against the DPRK’,” KCNA said.

Trump, who is at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort on a working holiday, described American military readiness in stark terms.

“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

The US president maintained pressure on the North a day after saying his earlier threat to unleash “fire and fury” on Pyongyang if it launched an attack may not have been tough enough.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis tempered Trump’s harsh words later on Thursday by telling reporters the United States still preferred a diplomatic approach to the North Korean threat.

Tension in the region has risen since the reclusive North staged two nuclear bomb tests last year and launched two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month in defiance of world powers.

Trump has said he will not allow Pyongyang to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the US.

As incendiary rhetoric in Pyongyang and Washington flared this week, a Chinese state-run newspaper said yesterday China should remain neutral if North Korea launched an attack that threatened the US, sounding a warning for Pyongyang over its plans to fire missiles near the US Pacific territory of Guam.

Beijing has expressed frustration with Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests and with behaviour from South Korea and the US, such as military drills, that it sees as increasing tensions.

An angry Beijing also warned off a US warship after it sailed near an artificial island in the disputed South China Sea in the latest operation aimed at loosening the Asian giant’s grip on the strategic waterway.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the actions of the USS John S McCain had violated Chinese and international law, seriously impairing the country’s sovereignty and security.

The destroyer had sailed within six nautical miles of Mischief Reef – an artificial island built by China – as part of a “freedom of navigation” operation, a US official said.

The reef is part of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

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