North Korea has claimed it is ready to test a nuclear device “at any time” as the country vowed to accelerate its nuclear weapons programme to “maximum pace”.
The country, led by dictator Kim Jong-un, claimed recent joint US-South Korean military drills were taking the region “to the brink of nuclear war”.
A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement: “Now that the US is kicking up the overall racket for sanctions and pressure against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), pursuant to its new DPRK policy called ‘maximum pressure and engagement’, the DPRK will speed up at the maximum pace the measure for bolstering its nuclear deterrence.”
The statement added that “measures for bolstering the nuclear force to the maximum will be taken in a consecutive and successive way at any moment and any place decided by its supreme leadership”.
Tensions have been rising between America and North Korea after a war of words broke out between the two nations over speculation that Pyongyang was ready to test a nuclear weapon or long-range ballistic missile.
President Trump warned that the test could provoke a US military response, while Russian and Chinese troops have also been moved closer to their borders with North Korea.
However, Trump’s position on North Korea has seemingly softened after he said that he would be “honoured” to meet Kim Jong Un, adding that he regarded him as a “smart cookie”.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer clarified the President’s comments shortly afterwards, saying: “Clearly conditions are not there right now. I don’t see this happening anytime soon.”