N Korea warns of 'pre-emptive' nuclear strike on US

31 March 2016

North Korea has claimed it is preparing to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the US, after claiming its warheads are capable of reaching Manhattan.

The country's foreign minister warned that the North Korean army has been ordered to move from preparing for potential military response to attacks on the country and instead prepare to launch their own.

Foreign minister Lee Su-yong extended the threat to its neighbours in the south, adding that ''the Korean peninsula faces the dilemma: a thermonuclear war or peace''.

The warnings follow months of intensified weapons tests and threats of nuclear war by North Korea as a response to ongoing military drills between Washington and Seoul.

''In response to the US frenzied hysteria for unleashing a nuclear war, we have fully transferred our army from the form of military response to the form of delivering a pre-emptive strike and we state resolutely about the readiness to deliver a pre-emptive nuclear strike,'' Lee Su-yong said in a statement.

''In a word, the Korean peninsula faces the dilemma - a thermonuclear war or peace,'' he said.

However, this is a demand North Korea has been making for decades - the United States and South Korea must immediately suspend their annual military exercises if there is to be peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Even before the exercises began, North Korea's formidable propaganda machine had been churning out articles every day condemning the US and South Korea in the strongest terms.

State newspapers and TV channels have been displaying nuclear bomb and missile mock-ups and warning it is ready at any time to launch a pre-emptive strike against the presidential residence in South Korea or even a nuclear attack on New York.

Nightly news programmes have been dominated by videos of leader Kim Jong-Un watching North Korea's own drills, replete with large-scale artillery arrays firing barrages from beachfront positions into the ocean and repeated claims that the North now has an H-bomb - which it says it tested in January - and a means of taking the war to the US mainland.

On Tuesday this week, North Korea fired a short-range projectile from an area near its eastern coast on Tuesday, South Korean officials said.

The projectile was fired near the North Korean port city of Wonsan and flew about 125 miles before crashing into land northeast of the launch site, South Korean military officials said.

It was unclear whether the projectile was a ballistic missile or an artillery shell and was too early to tell whether North Korea used a land target to test the accuracy and range of its weapons or experienced problems after planning a launch into the sea.

North Korea has fired a slew of short-range missiles and artillery shells into the sea and has threatened nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul since the start on March 7 of the annual springtime war games between the United States and South Korea.

Tensions are particularly high this year because the drills are the largest ever and follow a recent North Korean nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch.

The missile tests came as President Barack Obama prepares to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a global nuclear security summit in Washington on Thursday.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a Washington think tank the U.S. is willing to provide to China specifications of a US missile defense system that may be deployed in South Korea to counter the threat of North Korean missiles, to offer assurance it would not undermine China's strategic deterrence.

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