North Korean state media has warned Washington of a "super-mighty preemptive strike" after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson vowed to step up pressure on Pyongyang.
Responding to recent remarks by the top US diplomat, the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said on Thursday that Pyongyang could target the American forces on the troubled Korean peninsula and US mainland.
"In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only US imperialists' invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the US mainland and reduce them to ashes," it said.
The warning came after Tillerson said the United States had been looking at ways to pile up pressure on North Korea over its nuclear program.
“We're reviewing all the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang to re-engage with us, but re-engage with us on a different footing than past talks have been held," Tillerson told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.
The heightened tensions come as the administration of US President Donald Trump has taken a hard line with North Korea.
The developments also come amid an ongoing training exercise, codenamed Max Thunder, by US and South Korean Air Forces, which will end on April 28.
"We are conducting a practical and more intensive exercise than ever," media outlets quoted South Korean pilot Lieutenant Colonel Lee Bum-chul as saying, adding, "Through this exercise, I am sure we can deter war and remove our enemy's intention to provoke us."
Senior officials in North Korea routinely label such exercises as preparations for invasion.
Tensions have increasingly ratcheted up between North Korea and the US in recent weeks. The US has been unnerved by North Korea’s advancing missile and nuclear programs and has dispatched a military strike group to the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang has said it is ready for war.
The prospects of a potential military confrontation have concerned regional countries.
Pyongyang believes its missile and nuclear programs act as deterrence against a potential invasion by its adversaries, particularly the US.
The US has military forces in South Korea on a permanent basis, and routinely threatens the North with military action.