Ever since President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20, tensions with North Korea have escalated rapidly.
The isolated country is barred by United Nations resolutions from carrying out ballistic missile tests or from having a nuclear arms program. Nonetheless, North Korea thumbed its nose at the resolutions — conducting several ballistic missile tests this year alone and five nuclear tests since 2006, including two last year.
Their most recent attempt to launch a ballistic missile capable of hitting the South Korean capital of Seoul took place on Friday. Like other tests, the missile failed.
Meanwhile, leader Kim Jong Un has made no secret of the fact that his scientists are working on a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching America.
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One senior North Korean official told NBC News that the country is ready to test fire an intercontinental ballistic missile "at any time, at any place."
The situation is so fraught that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently asked China — Pyongyang's neighbor and powerful ally — to "use their influence to convince or compel North Korea to rethink its strategic calculus."
But Pyongyang has blithely ignored warnings by Tillerson that military action is "on the table" if they continued to test intercontinental ballistic missiles.
North Korea's representative at the United Nations, Kim Im Ryong, flat-out warned that the Trump administration's get-tough strategy was creating "a dangerous situation in which thermonuclear war may break out at any moment."
For his part, Trump has dismissed as failures attempts by his White House predecessors to derail North Korea's weapons programs.