North Korea accuses US as China warns of conflict 'at any moment'

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By Alasdair Sandford
North Korea accuses US as China warns of conflict 'at any moment'

As a group of US navy ships led by an aircraft carrier head to the Korean peninsula, Pyongyang has accused Washington of pushing the region to the brink of war.

The North Korean foreign ministry said the US was bringing “huge nuclear strategic assets” to the area.

Tension is rising amid concerns the North may conduct a sixth nuclear weapons test in defiance of US sanctions and warnings from the US.

“Trump says it’s none other than North Korea which makes things complicated, but it’s the other way around, it’s not the Democratic Republic of North Korea, but the US which makes problems,” said Han Song Ryol, North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister. “A nuclear test is something that our supreme headquarters decides on.”

The Trump administration has warned that the US policy of “strategic patience” with North Korea is over. Vice-President Mike Pence visits South Korea on Sunday as the US keeps up the pressure.

“Obviously we’re concerned about North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the ability to deliver those nuclear weapons in the region, and even in the United States, and that continues to be a major concern… “The time for action is now and by that we need to look at ways to put increased pressure on North Korea,” said acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

China, which opposes North Korea’s weapons programme, has warned that conflict could erupt at any moment and military force can’t resolve tension over North Korea.

Beijing has called for talks to rid the peninsula of nuclear weapons.

“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 state,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters.

Japan’s National Security Council has discussed how to evacuate the country’s nearly 60,000 citizens from South Korea in the event of a crisis, a government official said on Friday.

On Saturday North Korea marks the “Day of the Sun”, the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung.