WRAPUP 4-China warns against force as North Korea prepares celebration

The Japanese director-general of the International Atomic Agency, Yukiya Amano, confirmed on Thursday that North Korea's programme is developing and suggested USA policy in the region is "reckless", CNN reports.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told parliament in Seoul he believed Washington would consult Seoul if it was considering a pre-emptive strike.

The North has since said it is ready for "war" with the United States, while speculation is mounting that it might conduct a nuclear or missile test to mark the 105th birthday anniversary of founder Kim Il-Sung on Saturday.

That would be the sixth test over a two-year span. -South Korean wargames and the deployment of the aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, but also a tweet Trump posted Tuesday in which he said the North is "looking for trouble". It was built in time for the 65th anniversary in 2015 of founding of North Korea's ruling Worker's Party. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned Thursday that North Korea may be capable of firing a missile loaded with sarin nerve gas toward Japan, as worldwide concern mounted that a missile or nuclear test by the authoritarian state could be imminent.

South Korean officials said on Thursday there were no new signs to indicate a North Korean nuclear is more imminent but said the North has maintained a state of readiness to conduct such a test at any time. China, which shares a long land border with North Korea, is the reclusive state's sole major ally and main trading partner.

While Japan did not see a high risk of military action, it expected to be consulted by the United States if it made a decision to attack.

Saturday marks the 105th birthday of national founder Kim Il Sung, and North Korea has a history of connecting landmark construction projects to important dates. "I think he wants to help us with North Korea", but added that if support it not forthcoming "we're just going to go it alone". The North is technically at war with the United States and South Korea after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce and not a peace treaty.

The executive director of the Nautilus Institute in Berkeley told news.com.au North Korea may not have a deliverable warhead and may not have a reliable ballistic missile delivery system with a usable re-entry vehicle.

An editorial in Chinese state-run newspaper the Global Times also called for a peaceful solution: "As soon as North Korea complies with China's declared advice and suspends nuclear activities".

"If Trump were to follow through with his hints that he may give the order to shoot down any North Korean missile tests, it could lead to military escalation on both sides".

China suspended issuing permits for importing coal from North Korea on February 18 as part of its efforts to implement United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang. Trump has put North Korea on notice that he will not tolerate provocative actions.

Customs data in Beijing on Thursday showed that China's coal imports from North Korea plunged 51.6 percent in the first three months in 2017 from a year ago. He said later on Wednesday the United States was prepared to tackle the crisis without China, if necessary. The group is expected to take up to nine days to arrive, U.S. officials have said.

  • Leroy Wright