North Korea ‘ready to sink’ American warship
NORTH Korea has hit back at America’s provocations in a strange war of words as US warships near the Korean peninsula.
On Sunday, the hermit state said it was ready to sink a US aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, as the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike inched closer to its border.
The US has ordered the warship to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula in response to mounting concern over the North’s nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the US and its Asian allies.
US Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday that the strike group would arrive “within days” but gave no other details.
North Korea responded via a commentary in the Rodong Sinmum, the newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party.
The paper likened the aircraft carrier to a “gross animal” and said a strike on it would be “an actual example to show our military’s force”.
The commentary was carried on page three of the newspaper, after a two-page feature about leader Kim Jong-un inspecting a pig farm.
“Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike,” the paper said.
The commentary came as North Korea issued a statement through its official news agency on Saturday night, threatening to attack Australia with nuclear missiles for “blindly and zealously toeing the US line” on the rogue state.
With the Carl Vinson now expected to arrive near the Korean peninsula “within days”, coinciding with North Korea’s celebration of an important anniversary, tensions this week are again expected to be high.
North Korea often marks significant dates by displaying military capability, and South Korean officials say there’s a chance the country will conduct its sixth nuclear test or its maiden test launch of an ICBM around the founding anniversary of its military on Tuesday.
Recent US commercial satellite images indicate increased activity around North Korea’s nuclear test site, and third-generation dictator Kim Jong-un has said that the country’s preparation for an intercontinental ballistic missile launch is in its “final stage.”
Seoul’s Defence Ministry has said the North appears ready to conduct such “strategic provocations” at any time.
South Korea’s military has also been instructed to strengthen its “immediate response posture” in case the North does something significant on the April 25 anniversary.
But despite sending its warships to the region, US officials have told The Associated Press that the Trump administration doesn’t intend to militarily respond to a North Korean nuclear or missile test.
In a statement released late Friday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry accused Donald Trump of driving the region into an “extremely dangerous phase” with his sending of the aircraft carrier and said the North was ready to stand up against any kind of threat posed by the US.
With typical rhetorical flourish, the ministry said North Korea “will react to a total war with an all-out war, a nuclear war with nuclear strikes of its own style and surely win a victory in the death-defying struggle against the US imperialists.”
A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman has previously said the authorities of the Trump administration were “spouting a load of rubbish” after it was revealed the US strike group was not actually steaming towards North Korea last week.
But a strange explanation for the delayed strike force has also emerged.
The confusion, it appears, may be partly explained by an attempt by the US Pacific Command to help its sailors’ families recoup refunds on cancelled holidays to Australia.
The Navy Times, after interviews with almost a dozen US defence officials, has reported the “gaffes and missteps” made earlier this month that rapidly escalated tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the threat of nuclear war.
On April 8, the US Third Fleet issued a press release announcing the Carl Vinson-led strike group would sale north of Singapore “rather than executing previously planned port visits to Australia”.
Mr Trump whipped up tensions further in an April 10 interview on Fox Business News. “We are sending an armada, very powerful,” he said.
But US Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris’ original plan was reportedly to cancel the Carl Vinson’s visit to Perth, but only shorten secretive exercise with the Australian Navy near Indonesia.
After the exercise the strike group would head in the direction of the Korean peninsula and arrive by the end of April.
The media and nations in the region presumed the strike group was immediately “steaming” toward North Korea, not undergoing the exercises with Australia.
The cancelled Australian port visits wreaked havoc with “a good number of sailors” who had families flying from the US to meet them.
Australian port visits were described as “the holy grail for sailors on a Western Pacific deployment” seeking to reunite with family.
“The easiest thing to do, PACOM officials decided, would be send out a press release announcing the cancelled port visit — making it easier for families to get their money back from airlines and letting all parties know why the Vinson wouldn’t be visiting the Land Down Under,” the Navy Times reported.
“And it would have another effect: it would put North Korea on notice.”
One official admitted to the Navy Times “we shouldn’t have announced the port cancellation so early”.
Other officials defended the April 8 press release because they believed they could not tell 5000 families with sailors on the Carl Vinson the Australian port visits were cancelled with it not leaking to the public.
“It would have lit up social media immediately and then we would have had to make the announcement anyway,” another official said.
It was not until an April 17 Defense News report that it was revealed the Carl Vinson was still in Indonesian waters, more than 5000km away from North Korea.