Fri Apr 14, 2017 12:24AM
US Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson approaches to participate in the annual joint military exercise called Foal Eagle between South Korea and the United States, at Busan port in Busan, South Korea, March 15, 2017.  (Photo by AP)
US Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson approaches to participate in the annual joint military exercise called Foal Eagle between South Korea and the United States, at Busan port in Busan, South Korea, March 15, 2017. (Photo by AP)

The United States is prepared to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea should American officials become convinced that Pyongyang is going ahead with a nuclear weapons test, a report says.

Citing several senior US intelligence officials, NBC News reported on Thursday that the US military is ready to attack North Korea with conventional weapons if the country reaches for a nuclear trigger.

North Korea has announced that a "big event" is coming, and, according to US officials, Pyongyang could test a nuclear weapon as early as this weekend.

The officials told NBC News that the United States has deployed two destroyers capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles in the region.

According to the network, one of the destroyers is located 300 miles (about 483 kilometers) from the North Korean nuclear test site.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

There are also US heavy bombers located in Guam. It was reported previously that the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group would be operating in the western Pacific Ocean close to the Korean Peninsula instead of partaking in a series of previously planned Australian port visits.

In a statement on Thursday, North Korea blamed the US for “driving the situation to the brink of a nuclear war” by deploying warships to the Korean Peninsula.

"By relentlessly bringing in a number of strategic nuclear assets to the Korean Peninsula, the US is gravely threatening the peace and safety and driving the situation to the brink of a nuclear war," the statement noted.

In an earlier statement, North Korea said that it was ready for “war” after the US deployed the strike group to the Korean Peninsula.

This screen grab taken from North Korean broadcaster KCTV on March 7, 2017 shows ballistic missiles being launched during a military drill from an undisclosed location in North Korea. North Korea launched four ballistic missiles on March 6, with three landing provocatively close to America's ally Japan.

The North Korean state media announced that the country was “watching every move by enemy elements with our nuclear sight focused on the US invasionary bases not only in South Korea and the Pacific operation theater but also in the US mainland." 

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On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump accused North Korea of "looking for trouble,” and said, "If China decides to help, that would be great…If not, we will solve the problem without them." 

Trump: North Korea will be taken care of

On Thursday, Trump reiterated that he has "great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea."

"If they are unable to do so, the US, with its allies, will! USA," the US president tweeted.

At the end of a White House event on Thursday afternoon, Trump said, "North Korea is a problem, the problem will be taken care of."

"I think China has really been working very hard. I’ve really gotten to like and respect, as you know, President Xi, terrific person, spent a lot of time together in Florida, he’s a very special man," he added. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) with US President Donald Trump at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 7, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

On April 5, North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan just days after it warned the global community of retaliation over sanctions.

In February, North Korea also simultaneously launched four ballistic missiles off its east coast, three of which landed close to Japan. In August, it also successfully tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile some 500 kilometers off the coast of Japan, in a move which the North's leader Kim Jong-un hailed as the "greatest success."