N. Korea brands Trump 'warmonger' as his Asia tour moves to HanoiWorld
United States (US) President Donald Trump was due to land in Hanoi on Saturday, as North Korea slammed his “warmonger” Asia tour, saying it will only accelerate Pyongyang's push for a full-fledged nuclear deterrent.
Trump has repeatedly railed against the North as he urges the region to take a united front against the threat posed by the isolated nation, which has sparked global alarm with nuclear and missile tests in recent months.
On Friday he warned world leaders gathered in the Vietnamese resort city of Danang that the Asia-Pacific region “must not be held hostage to a dictator's twisted fantasies”.
Pyongyang issued its retort Saturday branding Trump's Asia tour a “warmonger's visit for confrontation to rid the DPRK of its self-defensive nuclear deterrence”, in the first comments on the visit by a North Korean official.
Tensions over the North's weapons programme have surged in recent months, as Pyongyang carried out a sixth nuclear test ? by far its largest to date -- and test fired dozens of missiles, some capable of reaching the US mainland.
North Korea has dominated Trump's trip, which has so far swept in Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam.
In a speech to the South Korean parliament on Wednesday, Trump warned Pyongyang not to underestimate the United States, while offering leader Kim Jong-Un a better future if he gives up his nuclear ambitions.
The North on Saturday said Trump's warnings “can never frighten us or put a stop to our advance”, according to the state-run KCNA news agency, quoting a Pyongyang foreign ministry spokesman.
Instead the threat “pushes us to speed up the efforts to accomplish the great cause of completing the state nuclear force”, the statement said, dismissing Trump's tour of the region as a “business trip”.
Trump will attend a state banquet on Saturday before a welcoming and deal-signing ceremony on Sunday morning.
He leaves for the Philippines on Sunday afternoon where he will attend the ASEAN summit of Southeast Asian leaders.
The US and South Korea on Saturday started joint naval exercises that will involve three US aircraft carriers in what military officials describe as a clear warning to North Korea.
The battle groups of the USS Ronald Reagan, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Nimitz will successively enter the exercise area during the drills that run until Tuesday in waters off South Korea's eastern coast, South Korea's joint chiefs of staff said.
The three carriers will be likely together in the drills around Monday, according to a South Korean military official, who didn't want to be named, citing office rules.
The exercises will also involve 11 US Aegis ships and seven South Korean naval vessels, including two Aegis ships. The Aegis technology refers to missile tracking and guidance.
They will aim to enhance combined operation and aerial strike capabilities and also display “strong will and firm military readiness to defeat any provocation by North Korea with dominant force in the event of crisis,” Seoul's military said in a statement.
It's the first time since a 2007 exercise near Guam that three US carrier strike groups are operating together in the Western Pacific, according to the US Navy's 7th Fleet. The US carriers will also participate in separate exercises with three Japanese destroyers on Sunday, according to Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The US has been sending its strategic assets, also including long-range bombers, to the region more frequently for patrols or drills amid accelerating North Korean efforts to expand its nuclear weapons program.
In recent months, North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the US mainland with further development and has conducted its most powerful nuclear test.
It also flew two new midrange missiles over Japan and threatened to launch them toward Guam, a US Pacific territory and military hub.