US ready to strike if North Korea tests nuke
The United States has drawn up plans for a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea should it become convinced the rogue state is about to carry out a nuclear test.
It would be a conventional strike, potentially using Tomahawk cruise missiles, to hit North Korea's nuclear test site, launched from US forces that have been massing in the area.
Kim Jong-un has vowed a "big event" today to mark the "Day of the Sun", the 105th anniversary of the birth of the nation's founder, his grandfather Kim Il-sung. There was speculation that event could be North Korea's sixth underground nuclear test.
The US has two Navy destroyers, capable of firing Tomahawks, nearby and one of them is only 480km from the nuclear site. US Air Force bombers based in Guam could also be used.
Earlier this week an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, was sent to the area with its strike group, which US President Donald Trump called an "armada". The US could also deploy cyber attacks.
US special forces, including Navy Seals, Delta Force and Green Berets, are already in South Korea for the annual Foal Eagle military exercise.
Senior US defence officials have previously denied reports that Seal Team Six, which killed Osama bin Laden, was there rehearsing for a possible "decapitation strike" against Kim Jong-un.
North Korea vowed a "merciless" response to any US provocation. In a statement, the North Korean People's Army said the Trump administration had "entered the path of open threat and blackmail". It said: "The closer such big targets as nuclear powered aircraft carriers come, the greater would be the effect of merciless strikes."
North Korea said US military bases in South Korea, and South Korea's presidential Blue House, would be "pulverised within a few minutes".
Any military strike by the US in North Korea could spark an all-out attack by the hermit state on South Korea. US officials indicated any action taken by America would have to be cleared first with its South Korean ally.
Mike Pence, the US vice president, was due to arrive in South Korea tomorrow as part of a 10-day trip to Asia. Aides to Mr Pence said he would reinforce the US commitment to its ally.
US officials said there was a "new resolve" to deal with North Korea since Mr Trump took office. They indicated that drawing up a pre-emptive strike option was intended to send a message that the new administration was going to be tougher than the last.
It was the third signal to North Korea, following Mr Trump's decision to fire 59 Tomahawks at a Syrian air base and America dropping the largest conventional bomb it has ever used in combat in Afghanistan this week. Mr Trump was spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and was being kept informed of developments.
The Chinese and Russian foreign ministers, Wang Yi and Sergey Lavrov, discussed the situation by phone yesterday, with both countries urging restraint. Mr Wang said: "Once a war really happens the result will be nothing but multiple loss. No one can become a winner."
Meanwhile, the director of the CIA has warned that rogue states should "take note" of Mr Trump's forthright military decisions in Syria and Afghanistan. In his first public comments since his appointment in January, Mike Pompeo said the White House was now "prepared to engage in activities that are different from what America has been doing these past few years".
He indicated that the potential development of long-range nuclear weapons in North Korea would soon have to be dealt with and warned of the growing and unacceptable threat posed by Iran.
Mr Pompeo said several US governments had been trying to deal with the threat of North Korea "putting a nuclear warhead into the United States, and we're simply closer now than we have ever been at any time in North Korea's history".
He also warned that Iran was "on the march" and its "transgressions" had increased dramatically since a 2015 deal was signed to halt its nuclear weapons programme. (© Daily Telegraph London)