US Defense Secretary James Mattis has called North Korea’s recent threats of launching a nuclear attack against the United States empty.
Mattis said on Friday that Pyongyang’s statements were provocative but had proven to be hollow in the past and should not be taken seriously.
“As far as North Korea’s latest words (are concerned), I think we’ve all come to hear their words repeatedly, their word has not proven honest,” Mattis told reporters in Israel.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US was considering putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism in order to “bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang to re-engage with us.”
In response, North Korea’s state media warned the United States of a "super-mighty preemptive strike.”
It threatened the United States with a “super-mighty preemptive strike” that it said would wipe out “not only the US imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the US mainland and reduce them to ashes.”
Peaceful outcome for Korean crisis still possible: Pence
However, Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday the Korean crisis could be resolved peacefully because of Washington's new engagement with China, despite reports North Korea could soon conduct a new nuclear test.
"We truly believe that, as our allies in the region and China bring that pressure to bear, there is a chance that we can achieve a historic objective of a nuclear-free Korea peninsula by peaceful means," Pence at a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
"We are encouraged by the steps that China has taken so far," he said.
Tensions have increased 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
North Korea has threatened the US with “all-out war” and announced that Pyongyang would continue to test missiles on a weekly basis.
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.