New Straits Times - - World -

and suc­ces­sive way at any mo­ment and any place de­cided by its supreme lead­er­ship,” the spokesman said, ap­par­ently re­fer­ring to a sixth nu­clear test and us­ing the North’s of­fi­cial name, the Demo­cratic Republic of Korea.

The North has car­ried out five nu­clear tests in the last 11 years and is widely be­lieved to be mak­ing progress to­wards its dream of build­ing a mis­sile ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing a war­head to the US.

It raises the tone of its warn­ings ev­ery spring, when Wash­ing­ton and Seoul carry out joint ex­er­cises it con­demns as re­hearsals for in­va­sion, but this time fears of con­flict have been fu­elled by a cy­cle of threats from both sides.

The joint drills have just ended, but naval ex­er­cises are con­tin­u­ing in the Sea of Ja­pan (East Sea), with a US strike group led by the air­craft car­rier USS Carl Vin­son.

The 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 state­ment re­asserts the North’s long-run­ning rhetoric on its mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Seoul also reg­u­larly warned that Py­ongyang could carry out a test when­ever it de­cided to.

In Tokyo, a Ja­panese naval de­stroyer left port yes­ter­day on a re­ported mis­sion of es­cort­ing US mil­i­tary ships off the coast as Ja­pan tries to in­crease its mil­i­tary role amid height­ened ten­sion on the Korean Penin­sula.

The heli­copter car­rier Izumo de­parted from the Yoko­suka port near here in the morn­ing.

The de­stroyer was to meet up and es­cort a US sup­ply ship in the Pa­cific Ocean south of here yes­ter­day, a new mis­sion un­der the new se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion al­low­ing Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary a greater role in over­seas ac­tiv­ity, ac­cord­ing to Ja­panese me­dia re­ports.

Re­ports said the US sup­ply ship was ex­pected to re­fuel other Amer­i­can war­ships, in­clud­ing the USS Carl Vin­son strike group, cur­rently in the re­gion.

Ja­pan’s De­fence Min­istry only said the Izumo left yes­ter­day to even­tu­ally par­tic­i­pate in an in­ter­na­tional naval event in Sin­ga­pore on May 15. AFP

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