NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un is leading celebrations this weekend marking the 105th birth anniversary of his grandfather and his regime is threatening to provoke a response from the U.S. by testing missiles or other weapons as it often does on important state occasions.
Recent satellite analysis suggests the regime is “primed and ready” to conduct its sixth nuclear test underground, CBS News reported.
Friday a top North Korean diplomat said the country will test missiles where and when it sees fit, and accused the Trump administration of a “vicious and more aggressive foreign policy.”
“Tensions between our two countries have reached a peak, leaving us in the worst situation ever,” North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol told CBS News.
The administration says North Korea is ratcheting up tension by pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
“The bottom line is North Korea has got to change its behavior, that is an agreed position among the international community, nations that are working together on this,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis said.
The Pentagon said a Navy carrier strike group is moving toward the western Pacific Ocean to provide a physical presence near the Korean Peninsula. The carrier group includes the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, with support from several missile destroyers and missile cruisers.
“If the U.S. comes up with a dangerous military option, then the first card is in our hands. We’ll deal with it with our pre-emptive strike. This means war,” Han said.
“So you are saying if you feel North Korea is going to be attacked, you will use nuclear weapons?” CBS News’ Ben Tracy asked Han, who replied, “Of course.”
U.S. official said the carrier’s presence is not meant as a provocation.
“The Vinson sails up and down the Pacific routinely,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said. “So I would not read anything into the Carl Vinson’s current location.”
However, it’s not a coincidence ships in the Vinson group are equipped to respond if North Korea’s missile launches, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.
“The ‘Lake Champlain,’ this smaller ship on the right, carries over 100 vertical-launch missiles,” weapons expert Dakota Wood explained. “Some of those would be equipped to be able to interdict a shorter or medium-range ballistic missile.”
Seven thousand miles from home, some New Yorkers are serving on the Vinson and its support ships, including a Navy commander from Manhattan.
The foreign minister of China is urging the U.S. to try to reduce tensions with North Korea, warning of “storm clouds gathering.”
President Donald Trump has said he’s counting on the Chinese to keep North Korea’s dictator from doing anything to provoke a U.S. military response.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is heading to South Korea for the weekend. The South, an American ally, is worried about its neighbor to the north.
A new Marist poll released Friday shows 72 percent of Americans believe tensions around the world are rising with big majorities viewing ISIS and North Korea as major threats to U.S. security.
The same poll has President Trump’s job approval rating at 39 percent among registered voters.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)