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North Korea Threatens 'Toughest Counteraction' After U.S. Moves Navy Ships

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, pictured in 2011, is part of the Navy strike group that was recently shifted to a position near the Korean Peninsula.
Aaron Tam
AFP/Getty Images
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, pictured in 2011, is part of the Navy strike group that was recently shifted to a position near the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea is threatening "tough counteraction" after a U.S. Navy strike group was routed toward the Korean Peninsula following the rogue nation's continued ballistic missile and nuclear testing.

"We never beg for peace but we will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms and keep to the road chosen by ourselves," the official Korean Central News Agency reported in English, quoting a Foreign Ministry official.

"We will hold the U.S. wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions," the statement released Tuesday concluded. A version of the statement in Korean said the country will "not miss a chance to sweep the imperialist group with a nuclear fire of justice," but did not elaborate on what it meant.

President Trump said in a tweet that North Korea "is looking for trouble." He has stated that China should take a larger role in pressuring the North Korean regime. "If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.," the president wrote.

The Carl Vinson Strike Group is made up of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and several destroyers, as NPR reported. The Navy said Saturday that the group was relocating toward the peninsula, days after another North Korean ballistic missile test.

NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman told Morning Edition that the move is designed to send a message:

"A carrier, when you see it off the coast, is very impressive and it focuses the mind. But it's not like planes are going to be flying off this aircraft carrier, taking out targets in North Korea. It is basically sending a message."

Last week, the U.S. fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base in response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria's Idlib province.

ABC's This Week asked U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday about what message the strikes in Syria should send to North Korea. He replied: "I think the message that any nation can take is if you violate international norms, if you violate international agreements, if you fail to live up to commitments, if you become a threat to others, at some point a response is likely to be undertaken."

The administration's objective for North Korea is a "denuclearized Korean Peninsula" and not regime change, Tillerson said.

According to the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper, a statement for North Korea's Foreign Ministry called the strikes against Syria "unpardonable." It added: "Our tremendous military muscle with a nuclear force as its pivot serves as a treasured sword of justice for foiling the U.S. shameless high-handed and arbitrary practices and aggression moves and protecting the sovereignty of the country and the right of the nation to existence."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.