U.S. President-elect Donald Trump tweeted on Monday that he would not tolerate fresh signs of North Korean nuclear aggression.
In an annual New Year's Day speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned that preparations for launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) were at the final stage. He added that he would continue enhancing his nation's capability for "pre-emptive strikes" unless the U.S. ended annual naval exercises with South Korea, or what Pyongyang calls "war games."
Widely perceived as a renewed threat on Washington, Kim's remarks prompted an angry tweet from Trump.
Kim didn't provide any specifics on timing of an ICBM launch, but the rogue nation is known to commemorate national celebrations through displays of military prowess and Kim's birthday on Jan. 8 may be an ideal platform. On Jan. 6 last year, Pyongyang claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.
Moreover, speculation has been building for some time now that Kim will detonate another nuclear device in response to Trump's inauguration as the U.S. president on Jan 20. So far, the country has conducted five nuclear tests.
In a second tweet, Trump then criticized China, a traditional ally of Pyongyang, for its lack of assistance on the matter.
In an earlier statement, the Pentagon urged the world to "use every available channel and means of influence" to show Pyongyang that the use of ballistic missile technology was unacceptable.
In response to Trump's tweets, China's Foreign Ministry said that the mainland's work to denuclearize the Korean peninsula was obvious to all, Reuters reported.
As North Korea's biggest trading partner and main source of aid, China holds influence over the pariah state. But bilateral ties, which date back to the Korean War, have weakened since North Korea began testing nuclear weapons in 2006 and Beijing has since joined the international community in supporting United Nations (UN) sanctions. But the West has long urged President Xi Jinping's administration to be more forceful in its rebuke.
In November, China announced it would temporarily ban North Korean coal imports, a key source of income for Kim's regime, as part of new UN-enforced punishments.