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North Korea Responds To Trumps Aggressive Rhetoric

By: Justin McCurry

North Korea has vowed to accelerate its nuclear weapons programme to “maximum pace” and test a nuclear device “at any time” in response to Donald Trump’s aggressive stance towards the regime.

The warning came as US military officials said a controversial missile defence system was now “operational” after being installed at a site in South Korea last week. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system – or Thaad – is designed to locate and intercept North Korean missiles in mid-flight, but its deployment has been met with opposition by China and confusion over who should foot the billion-dollar bill.

US Forces Korea said Thaad was “operational and has the ability to intercept North Korean missiles and defend [South Korea]”. But a US defence official told AFP the system had only “reached initial intercept capability” and more hardware would be added later this year to make it fully functional.

rea vowed to continue its nuclear tests in the face of what it called US “aggression and hysteria” – a reference to joint US-South Korean military drills that the North said were taking the peninsula “to the brink of nuclear war”.

Operation Foal Eagle has just ended but the USS Carl Vinson carrier group, sent to waters off the Korean peninsula, has held exercises with the Japanese and South Korean navies in recent days.

Under controversial security laws passed in 2015, Japan on Monday sent its biggest warship to escort a US supply vessel that will later join up with the carrier group.

The Izumo, whose flight deck can accommodate up to nine helicopters, left Yokosuka port near Tokyo on Monday and will accompany the supply ship for two days as far as waters off Shikoku island in western Japan, according to the Kyodo news agency.

The US vessel is then expected to deliver fuel to the Carl Vinson and other American vessels in the region.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high, with speculation last month that North Korea would test a nuclear weapon or long-range ballistic missile – provocations that Trump warned could be met with a military response.

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