NKorea says it will speed up nuke program in response to US

S.Korea says US reaffirms it will pay THAAD costs; joint drills wrap up

Tensions between the US and North Korea have escalated since Trump assumed the presidency in January, particularly after North Korea's insistence on the continuation of nuclear missile tests.

The U.S. air force said in a statement the bombers had flown from Guam to conduct training exercises with the South Korean and Japanese air forces.

In an interview with CBS television network's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Trump said if North Korea carried out another nuclear test, "I would not be happy".

The Pyongyang foreign ministry spokesman said if the North was not armed with "the powerful nuclear force", Washington would have "committed without hesitation the same brigandish aggression act in Korea as what it committed against other countries".

The deputy ambassador to the UN, Kim In Ryong, hit back at Mr Tillerson and insisted its nuclear weapons would never be part of political bargains and economic deals. "You don't have to be a psychologist to see that he admires leaders who ignore the rule of law", he said.

The U.S. military's installation of the THAAD battery in South Korea has been hotly contested.

In a show of force, the U.S. has sent the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to waters off the Korean peninsula to join drills with South Korea to counter a series of threats of destruction from North Korea.

But a USA defence official told AFP news agency that the system now only has "initial intercept capability" which would be beefed up later this year as more parts of the system arrive.

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The visit comes after North Korea conducted another missile test on Saturday, and a US aircraft carrier group was in nearby waters. That test was also a failure, as the missile exploded just moments after launch.

Instead, North Korea conducted an annual military parade, featuring a display of missiles on April 15 and then a large, live-fire artillery drill 10 days later.

North Korea's state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in an editorial the country is ready to illustrate its "military force" by sinking a "nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike".

North Korea has become the most urgent national security threat and foreign policy issue facing Mr Trump, with US Secretary of State last week hinting North Korea could be added to the state sponsor of terrorism list.

No US President has ever before met the leader of North Korea, and the idea is extremely controversial. It would not be fully operational for some months, however, one of them cautioned. I'd like to say they're very safe.

The North Korean spokesperson accused President Donald Trump's administration of escalating tensions and claimed that Pyongyang is well-prepared to respond to any military action by Washington.

Moon Jae-in, the frontrunner in South Korea's Presidential election which takes place on May 9, has expressed skepticism over THAAD. That has left the Trump administration relying increasingly on China, North Korea's neighbor and top trading partner, to exert pressure on the regime.