China warns of N Korea conflict 'at any moment'

Chinese experts see little immediate possibility of hostilities breaking out between the USA and North Korea, but say Beijing will respond harshly to any further North Korean nuclear tests.

Instead, the country is gearing up for its biggest holiday of the year, the 105th anniversary of the birth of the late Kim Il-sung, the country's founder and present leader Kim Jong-un's grandfather.

It would also avoid the risk of involving China, North Korea's treaty ally, in hostilities that could have catastrophic consequences: think a second Korean War with nukes.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Pyongyang, Mr Han warned the U.S. against provoking North Korea militarily, saying: "We will go to war if they choose".

Many North Korea watchers believe North Korea could have a viable nuclear warhead and a ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States mainland on Mr Trump's watch as president - within the next few years.

The focus of that realm is North Korea, whose increasingly sophisticated nuclear and missile programs have prompted Mr. Trump to abandon his predecessor's policy of "strategic patience". "We've got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed" in the face of a USA pre-emptive strike, he said.

Speculation has arisen that the North might be planning a nuclear test to coincide with a national day of celebration.

The moves are seen as an implicit warning to North Korea that Washington is not afraid to use force.

Trump has sent a aircraft carrier-led strike group to the Korean peninsula to press his point, one of a series of signals that indicate his willingness to shake up foreign policy strategy.

North Korea's military strength USA running out of patience?

He also said the country would continue developing its nuclear program and conduct its next nuclear test whenever its leaders saw fit.

A White House foreign policy advisor said Friday that the USA is assessing military options in response to the North's weapons programs, saying another provocative test was a question of "when" rather than "if".

"President Trump's penchant for an unpredictable foreign policy does not sit well with Beijing, which calibrates its approach based on careful assumptions of USA consistency", said Tiffany Ma of the DC-based National Bureau of Asian Research. "It seems to be a much better choice now for Beijing to get more actively involved", said University of Hong Kong historian Xu Guoqi.

Mr Han said that in the face of such actions, North Korea would "go to war if they choose".

"After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it's not so easy", the president said in a "Wall Street Journal" interview after talks on the subject with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"Should North Korea conduct a sixth nuclear test, the possibility that it will become a decisive factor in pushing Washington to take a military adventure can not be excluded", the paper said in an editorial.

  • Leroy Wright