Force won't resolve Nth Korea tensions: China

"We will go to war if they choose", he warned.

President Donald Trump's tweets are adding fuel to a "vicious cycle" of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea's vice foreign minister told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Friday.

Han told AP that Pyongyang won't "keep its arms crossed" in the face of a US pre-emptive strike.

To keep things in check, the South Korean government needs to expand contacts with the Donald Trump administration but a leadership vacuum caused by the ouster of Park Geun-hye from the presidency is making it hard, he said.

The expected nuclear test would be the country's sixth - and likely most powerful - in a decade, and pushes the North Korean threat to the top of White House's priority list, prompting a rash of tweets, statements and even diplomatic bargaining from Trump and his team.

Vice Minister Han Song Ryol said Pyongyang has determined the Trump administration is "more vicious and more aggressive" than that of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

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

On Thursday, the country issued a statement warning of a "merciless retaliatory strike" should the US take any action. The relationship of trust between Tokyo and Washington has heightened, paving the way for joint actions to be taken in times of emergency.

"If the North provokes the world with its another nuclear test, China will have to take some actions against it, and Sino-DPRK relations will naturally worsen", Chung Jae-hung, a researcher at the Sejong Institute told NK News.

Wang told reporters Friday that all sides must stop provoking and threatening each other in their words and actions and take a flexible approach to resuming dialogue. "China is willing to give support to all of them", Wang said. Pyongyang recently tested a ballistic missile and claims it is close to perfecting an intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear warhead that could attack the US mainland.

Outwardly, there are few signs of concern in North Korea despite the political back and forth.

"As long as the nuclear threats and blackmail go on with the military exercises, we will carry forward with our national defense buildup, the core of which is the nuclear arms buildup", Han said. "Whatever comes from USA politicians, if their words are created to overthrow the DPRK system and government, we will categorically reject them".

Recent satellite images have revealed an increase in excavation debris around North Korea's nuclear testing site, as well as a slow in activity, which could suggest plans for another test soon.

China is the North's only major ally.

American bombers have also been positioned in Guam ready to strike if necessary.

North Korea denounced the United States on Friday for bringing "huge nuclear strategic assets" to the Korean peninsula as a U.S. aircraft carrier group headed for the region amid concerns the North may conduct a sixth nuclear weapon test.

On Saturday, it marks the "Day of the Sun", the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung.

  • Salvatore Jensen